My biggest gaffe: a warning from the Palace

Ogilvy Public Relations MD Michael Frohlich got a flurry of coverage for a client with friends in high places - and got fired for his pains...

Michael Frohlich: "We were fired within hours."
Michael Frohlich: "We were fired within hours."

What happens when you mix a CEO with regal aspirations, a consumer survey about trust and momentary deafness? You get warnings from the Palace – and fired by your client. During the early onslaught of the recession, my team and I decided we should highlight how much distrust there was by surveying consumers on the levels of trust they had in different occupations and celebrities. We took this to our very premium financial services client, which then took it to its CEO.

This particular CEO had many influential friends, including members of the royal family – the one thing asked of us was not to include any of the royal family in our campaign. This was a very clear request, in writing and verbally. We listened carefully and then somehow ignored these instructions and threw the Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall into the mix.

Furthermore, although we remembered to omit them from the press release (it can’t be said we didn’t adhere to the CEO’s instructions, albeit briefly), we still sent out a full deck of results to the media.

The resulting coverage was impressive and focused on trust in the royal family. It outraged the CEO’s personal circle of influential friends. We were fired within hours.

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