True Story: We Survived an Emergency Landing and Went by Ambulance Plane to The Pitch

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How the hell can you end up in a seduction lecture, an emergency landing, a fire truck and an ambulance plane, all on the way to a client presentation? And can you still pull off the presentation? It sounds incredible, but this is that story:

A few months ago one of our biggest clients asked us to come down to Gothenburg to present our latest communications concept for them. The presentation was for the top marketing executives from all international markets, so needless to say this was a key presentation for us.

As fate had it, this meeting ended up being scheduled only two hours after the end of a speaking engagement on “Basic Seduction Theory for Marketers” in Stockholm that I had accepted an invitation to several months earlier. If you know anything about Swedish geography, you know that getting from Berns in Stockholm to the Gothenburg harbor is not something you do in two hours unless you’re EXTREMELY lucky with your flight times. We weren’t that lucky.

So I canceled the speaking gig, right? No. Canceling speaking gigs is not something I take lightly, and rescheduling the client presentation was not an option. What to do?

I started calling around to see if I could get hold of anybody with a helicopter or a plane who could fly us down to Gothenburg (always the optimist). We actually did get hold of one friend with a plane, but it turned out that he didn’t have a “cloud license”, something that I had never heard of in my life before, but which apparently meant that he couldn’t fly if there were clouds in the sky. Hoping for clear skies seemed a bit brave since we do live in Sweden after all. I’m not that optimistic.

I am however stubborn. Ridiculously stubborn at times. This was one of those times.
– Let’s book a business jet, I said to Emil (Honesty’s account director) who looked at me in disbelief.

Business jets are not exactly cheap, but after some calling around I managed to find a plane that was slightly cheaper than the others. I booked it. I guess I should have known better. Keep reading.

The talk in Stockholm went great. After I finished I rushed out to a car waiting outside with the motor running. We had to have our own car since taxis like to keep speed limits (stubborn bastards) and we really didn’t have time for trivialities like that (If you’re a policeman reading this, I’m only joking. Promise.). As we zoomed towards Bromma Airport I tried to clear my head to prepare for the next presentation.

You get what you pay for, and I suppose I should have realized what kind of plane to expect, but what came rolling out of the hangar was this tiny piece of junk propeller plane. The pilot wore jeans and a windbreaker. But there was no turning back now. We rushed aboard the four seat plane, put on our headsets and buckled up.

As the plane took off we felt immediately that something wasn’t right. The plane bounced around in the sky and sounded like an out of tune sewing machine. We held on to our iPhones for king and country. The pilot bravely pushed on for five minutes that felt like an hour before his voice came on in our noisy headsets:

– As you can hear there is something wrong with our engine and we have to turn back to the airport.
At this point Emil was starting to become really nervous about not making it to our super important meeting and asked politely (Emil can only ask politely):
– Ehrm, Mr Pilot, We’re in a bit of a hurry and…
The pilot cuts Emil short.
– That’s the least of our problems right now! We need to get this plane back on the ground!

This situation was definitely not improving.

We came down towards Bromma Airport for a proper emergency landing followed by a parade of ambulances, fire fighters and airport security cars. When the plane came to a stop, some kind of emergency procedure started with debriefings and reports. Emil and I were so worked up about not missing our meeting by now (we had after all just risked our lives to get there) that we somehow managed to convince the plane rental people that we needed to go on the fastest plane available to Gothenburg like… right now.

To this day I still can’t figure out exactly how this happened, but minutes later, after a short ride in a fire truck, we were taxing out to the runway aboard an ambulance jet (I shit you not) and took off for Gothenburg to the roar of jet engines.

Rocketing across the sky in what must have been close to 1000 km/h we tried to finish up the presentation keynote.

The interior of the ambulance plane consisted of three seats and a stretcher, plus two ad guys with MacBooks. It’s no exaggeration to call this a strange scene.

When we walked into the meeting we were a mere fifteen minutes late. We walked in, trying to breath normally, apologized for being fifteen minutes late and fired off our presentation. It was one of those moments from an American high school movie when everything is in slow motion and the fat kid scores the winning goal in the football finals. *Musical score fading up*

On my way out from the meeting I looked up and met Emil’s eyes. I could tell that he was thinking the same thing I did, “I don’t know what the hell just happened, but somehow we pulled this off”.

We had made it! The concept presentation was a great success and today we are rolling out that concept in Sweden and internationally. When the evaluation came back from the speaking gig at Berns, it was all top marks there as well. Somehow we had managed to execute what seemed like an impossible plan.

So what’s the moral of this story? Well – I guess I can summarize it in this single sentence: “Impossible is a mindset”. There is always a way to get things done if you put a bit of extra effort into it, and I think that sticking to this conviction is an important ingredient in succeeding with anything. And besides, getting some adrenaline through your veins every once in a while keeps you young and peachy.

But don’t take my word for it. Go out and try it for yourself. Pick out an impossible project and just go for it. You’ll be surprised how far a little bit of stubbornness can take you, let alone a lot.

About the Blog

This blog is written by Walter Naeslund and has been around since 2007. The blog is about the journey of starting an advertising agency and a sneak peek behind the scenes of what goes on at the Honesty HQ in SoFo, Södermalm. It is also a blog about communication & technology. The blog has gathered almost a thousand posts over the years with several longer and shorter breaks. Welcome and enjoy.
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