My wife texted me the other day and asked me to pick up a chicken and some salad on the way home. My reply was one word: “No.” Here’s why that’s funny.
Sometimes with inside jokes, you had to be there. But my kids think it’s funny, and even after the millionth time, my wife still thinks it’s amusing (I’m sure of it). And they weren’t there, so maybe you’ll think it’s funny too.
I was working on Olympus digital cameras at the time. This was when digital photography was in its infancy, and the budget was still smaller than the film camera budget. But we knew history was being made, and iconic film brands like Kodak and Polaroid would inevitably become obsolete. It was exciting seeing the technology improve and the category grow each year, as the digital budget grew and the film budget shrank.
There were a couple different agencies working on the business, and we were all invited to come to New York for a big interagency brainstorming session. Our Account Director couldn’t make it to the meeting, so just my CD/Art partner and I went (I was CD/Copy).
The highlight of the trip for me was finally getting to experience an Eddie’s Pizza bar pie. I’d heard about it for years, and it did not disappoint. If you’ve ever had one, you know what I’m talking about.
The morning after we arrived, still on an Eddie’s high (or more accurately, in an Eddie’s coma), we went to the meeting. There were probably 30 or so people there. My partner and I sat with our day-to-day client. There was another ad agency, a PR agency and lots of internal people. The guy running the meeting was…actually, I don’t know what his title was. He was an industry expert and one of their technology experts. Maybe director of product development? He had some say over marketing, too, though. A quick Google search didn’t turn up his title, so let’s just call him The Dude In Charge of the Meeting.
So Dude In Charge begins by thanking everyone for being there, and reminds us that this is a brainstorming session. He stresses that we are there to be collaborative, and we are there to arrive at solutions together. All ideas are welcome, and as it is a crowded room, there is no room for negativity.
So far, so good.
The first item on the agenda was a new interchangeable lens system for their new digital camera body. This was pro-level stuff. It was internally being called the M System, but they were looking for ideas for other names. He opened up the floor.
No one said anything. But I thought, hmm, Olympus, seems obvious. Hard to believe they haven’t already thought of it, but I may as well suggest it. So I spoke up. “How about the O System?”, I volunteered.
My partner and our client both looked at me, nodding, and with, “Yeah, why not, seems perfect” expressions.
The response from Dude In Charge was immediate. He turned to me and said loudly, “NO.”
We were kind of taken aback, but really, it was all I could do to not burst out laughing. “NO.” And you have to say that with a Texas accent. So it’s drawn out slightly. Almost like a cow mooing.
After a moment, booming echo still fading, he went on to explain that there were legal issues with that name, so they couldn’t do that. But it was too late. A classic joke had already been birthed.
When we got back from the meeting, the Account Director asked us for copies of our notes from the all-day, cross-country meeting. I looked at mine. I think I had like two or three lines. My partner looked at his. Maybe twice as many lines as me. And a couple of doodles. The Account Director sighed. “That’s the last time I send two creatives to a meeting without an account person.”
And that did turn out to be the last meeting I ever went to at Olympus, dang it. Maybe if I’d taken better notes, I would have been able to have another bar pie. You think?
All together now: “NO.”