In 2016, a very odd thing happened on the set of the UK edition of Celebrity Big Brother.
Angie Bowie, the ex-wife of David Bowie, was called into the Diary Room to be given the rather distressing news that her ex-husband had passed away.
Unexpectedly, she decided to remain in the house.
What she did next may go down as one of the greatest moments in television history — alongside “Pine Barrens”, that True Detective tracking shot, and Martin Starr guffawing at Garry Shandling between mouthfuls of grilled cheese and cake.
Upon leaving the Diary Room, Angie took aside her fellow housemate Tiffany Pollard (VH1’s Flavour of Love) and told her “David’s dead”.
A statement that sent Tiffany into a loud spiral.
“When did it happen?”
Angie pleads with her to be quiet and calm. The rest of the housemates are in the garden wondering what on earth could be going on.
But Tiffany can’t calm down.
Because of course Tiffany presumes “David” to be David Gest, the American producer, former spouse of Liza Minelli and fellow Big Brother contestant.
Tiffany’s reaction escalates, much to the confusion of Angie who couldn’t understand why her news has provoked such a reaction.
Tiffany goes into the garden and tells the other housemates.
“David is dead.”
They rush to the bedroom to find David Gest snuggled under the covers — very much alive.
Tiffany’s anger and disbelief continues out in the garden, utterly incredulous as to why Angie would tell her that David had died.
Angie is inside — puzzled, she asks why Tiffany is so angry.
“What did I do?”
To which former soap-star Daniella Westbrook replies: “You told him David was dead with cancer.”
“No he’s in there asleep.”
“No! Not David. My ex husband.”
This is then communicated to Tiffany, but she firmly believes that Angie had specifically mentioned “David Gest” when she broke the news (she hadn’t).
The whole incident spans around 5 minutes and is not only a breathtaking masterclass of reality TV editing, but an incredibly prescient example of how narcissism coupled with a lack of clarity inevitably leads to confusion and bedlam.
In our current state of isolation we are seeing entire agency and client workforces relying on technology to get us through everything from day-to-day meetings, presentations, pitches and catch-ups.
It’s been truly amazing to see everyone pulling together, but the recent struggles around COVID-19 messaging are a huge lesson for our industry:
“Practice social distancing.” — vague, conceptual, a brand new term.
“Stay home. Shop once a week.” — clear, concise, a simple, known phrase.
Clarity is king.
The jargon has got to go.
The needless fluffery has got to go.
It’s time for reductive thinking across the board.
Patchy Zoom calls, decks prepared remotely via multiple authors, Slacks and emails galore there has never been a more important time for clear, concise messaging.
With the global and local situations in a constant state of flux — getting to the point has never been more valuable for all concerned.
Let’s keep it tight everyone.
“I know when to go out, I know when to stay in.” — David Bowie