In 1999 a lorry driver, Michael Rayner, headed for London.
He joined the M1 at Junction 13, but by Junction 10 he’d dialled 999 emergency on his mobile.
He told the police his accelerator had jammed and his lorry was unstoppable, going flat out at 80 mph.
He couldn’t stop because the brakes had failed.
That’s 38 tons of fully loaded truck thundering down the motorway, capable of mowing down anything that gets in front of it.
Emergency services told him to turn the engine off.
He said he couldn’t do that in case the steering lock engaged and the whole thing turned over.
So they sent seven police cars to clear a path in front of the truck.
And for 100 miles it barrelled uncontrollably on.
Eventually the end of the motorway came in sight.
The out-of-control lorry was going to plough into Staples Corner.
With all the traffic on the North Circular road it would be carnage.
So Michael Rayner took a chance.
He turned off the engine and steered the lorry into the crash barrier.
Finally it came to a halt.
Many lives were saved and Michael Rayner was a hero.
The lorry was checked by the manufacturers.
And they found that the accelerator wasn’t jammed at all.
It normally limited the truck to 56mph, but it had been overridden.
Plus the brakes were found to be working perfectly.
So if there was no problem with the truck, what happened?
It was discovered that six months earlier Michael Rayner had been diagnosed with “Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy”.
This is a condition whereby the sufferer invents a perilous situation no one else can solve.
Eventually they manage to solve it and become a hero.
Michael Rayner was charged with dangerous driving.
The police case was that he simulated the disaster in order to be a hero.
You find a lot of “Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy” in advertising and marketing.
A respected senior planner told me the advice he’d been given by his boss on his first day on the job.
He said “Remember, it’s your job to make the client believe that this is an incredibly complicated problem, and you’re the only person that can solve it.”
That must be the reason we speak in a language ordinary people can’t understand.
Because if it sounds too simple, they’ll think anyone can do it.
We’ve got to make it sound like a complicated marketing problem no one can solve.
And the more complicated the language, the more complex the problem sounds.
The client needs the only person who can guide them through it.
The client needs a hero.