My Biggest Gaffe: Curtain malfunction almost draws client relationship to an end

Independent consultant Andy Turner explains how the clunk of a curtain and a Midlands heatwave spelled disaster for his agency's biggest client.

Only the passage of time allows me to tell this story. Our largest client – the one we’d founded the agency on – was a household-name industrial manufacturer. We were charged with launching a product and the client liked a good show.

My MD came up with this elaborate, touring roadshow with a stage, fancy lights and – unbelievably, in hindsight – electric curtains to theatrically ‘reveal’ the product to the sound of stirring music.

The show toured nationwide and went down well. Until we got to Birmingham, where it was unseasonably hot. The set featured large, heavy product samples as a backdrop to various speakers. A crew member worried the adhesive holding them was showing signs of ‘heat fatigue’. I ignored him. The room was filling up and there was no time: "On with the show!"

I was in charge of the curtains. On cue, I pressed the switch and they began opening, but stuck halfway. I tried again. This time, they almost opened... but then went backwards and jammed. Someone had to walk on stage and wrench them open.

Just as everyone was about to sigh in relief, a piece of the backdrop hit the stage floor with an almighty crash, just missing the client.

The audience was now in pieces. Everyone carried on stoically.

We extended the opening time for the bar afterwards.

Miraculously, we kept the account. The offending curtains ended up in my MD’s house where, I was assured, they always worked flawlessly.

Want more PR gaffes? Here you go.

Thumbnail image: ©GettyImages

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