Backchat was out and about in 2006 observing and commenting on the weird and wonderful, and the sublime and ridiculous. Here's a selection of our industry's alternative face
January saw Backchat amused by Aviva action man Patrick Snowball's revealing tabloid interview (26 January). The former tank-driving Army major was asked by the paper: "Have you ever killed anyone, in the Army or subsequently?" The genial Snowball's tight-lipped response was: "I never answer questions like that."
Backchat decided it would be careful what it writes about Aviva from now on.
Crazy claims always provoke a smile and February produced a particularly freakish selection involving kebabs, squirrels, zebras and, oddly, potatoes. (9 February)
There was the motorist whose car was damaged when a frozen squirrel fell out of a tree and crashed through the front windscreen. Another discovered the ballistic qualities of a frozen kebab when taking bend at speed: one of the doors opened and a frozen kebab flew out, hitting and damaging a passing car. And what of the potatoes? Always check your car for errant spuds: "I couldn't brake because a potato was lodged behind the brake," said another driver. Who said potatoes were good for you?
March saw Admiral chief executive Henry Engelhardt use a rather queer analogy to explain the current state of the motor market (16 March).
"Did you know that if you want to boil a frog and you throw the frog into boiling water it will jump right out?" he said in the company's annual statement.
"But if you put the frog in a pot of cool water and turn up the heat it will boil quite nicely."
Confused yet? Engelhardt explained: "The gentle deterioration of the car market is akin to that slowly boiling frog."
Eh? Previous cycles were more like throwing the frog into the boiling pot. The market would scream and react.
Jump forward to May and the annual networking-marathon that is the Biba conference. Sharp-eyed conference-goers will have noticed a small, but nonetheless amusing, cock-up in the signage for London broker Stuart Alexander (4 May). For one night only, Biba's signage suggested that the broker had had a sex change: Stuart Alexander became Stuart Alexandra.
What do brokers have in common with pornographers? All was revealed by Ace's European Group's e-commerce manager Mark Whitehead (25 May).
Whitehead was pointing to examples of how traditional sales routes survived in the face of competition. He said: "Gambling, music and pornography are three of the biggest online sectors, but the world still has betting shops, record stores and red-light districts." Good point well made.
In the midst of the World Cup, Budget Van Insurance pulled of one of the most bizarre PR stunts Backchat has ever seen: a message of good luck to the team by way of personalised England pants complete with "Good Luck England" emblazoned across the backsides of van drivers (15 June). Matthew Gledhill, managing director, Budget Van Insurance, said: "Admit it, we all have a lucky pair of pants."
Rumours were circulating in July about a possible acquisition of Heath Lambert by Jardine Lloyd Thompson. Was there any substance to the gossip? Backchat asked Heath's very own PR guru, Reuben Aitchison, at the Lloyd s summer press party (6 July). Aitchison's business card had the answer printed on it: "Regrettably, I am currently suffering from a case of speculative laryngitis."
More motor insurance weirdness, this time from Sheila's Wheels which was offering a blow-up man to entice female drivers to buy their insurance (27 July). The man (actually, it's half a man because there is no bottom half, rendering him useless for sex pests everywhere) was designed to scare off an attack by giving the impression that lone drivers have a passenger. Start of a new craze?
August revealed Brit chief Dane Douetil's great passion (10 August). In an interview with a national newspaper, Douetil let slip that he would be lost without his ultimate boy's toy - a sabre tooth tiger ride-on mowing machine .
Backchat was left wondering whether Douetil had ever desired to ride that bad boy into the boardroom. Perhaps the machine might become the company mascot, and Douetil could soon be seen riding his tiger down Leadenhall Street.
The annual reinsurance Rendez-vous in Monte Carlo saw plenty of deals being done, including some of the less salubrious kind. Backchat learned that the cream of Russia s working girls had descended on the principality to enjoy the reinsurance dollar (21 September). The preponderance of high class hookers left some describing the glamorous women at the Rendez-vous as the WARPs - a version of the now infamous footballers' WAGs (wives and girlfriends). WARPs? That's wives and Russian prostitutes to the uninitiated. Apparently rates were as low as €450 an hour.
The Lloyd's shop opened its doors to the public in September offering a feast of exclusive merchandise, like cufflinks and cigar cutters. Backchat was on hand to offer its own suggestion for a personalised mug.
In October, Lloyd's top executives swapped their pin stripes for aprons and got hot and sweaty in the kitchen, in a charity cake baking competition. Against stiff competition from Luke Savage's spiced apple cake and Rolf Tolle's fudge brownies, Julian James was crowned the victor with what observers described as rather special chocolate and pistachio delight. Tasty.