Mini Metro Launch

Just around the corner from the Centre of the Magic Arts, the Magic Circle's headquarters, in London, are the offices of David Ball and Jan Kennedy. They are experts in the art of corporate promotion and have worked with many of Britain's largest companies. David Ball has been in the business a long time and has seen innumerable product launches come and go, all designed to promote an assortment of industries with varying degrees of hype, sophistication and ingenuity. One campaign is a particular favourite of his and large photographs of the promotion adorn his office walls, a colourful testament to its success. A large part of that success was due to the efforts of David Berglas.

It was David's first television producer, Ernest Maxin, who recommended him for the job. The task, supervised by David Ball, was to introduce a new range of British Leyland vehicles, the Mini Metro, to an audience of buyers who had considerable influence over company transport budgets. Principally they were selling to the fleet buyers of large organisations like the Police, taxi services, car hire, sales teams and so on. By convincing one man of the value of the Mini Metro they could move a great number of vehicles.

Each year companies try to outdo each other by devising sales presentations that are fun and memorable and it's common practice to provide incentives to buyers in the way of gifts and treats. Why else would they give up valuable time to listen to sales presentations? Holidays and trips abroad are a common way of guaranteeing that buyers turn up in droves but it takes something special to make an impact in a market that is highly competitive and where companies are prepared to pay substantial amounts of money to maintain their market share. When David was asked to add a little zest and mystery to the promotion of British Leyland's new range of cars he knew he would have to create something that would surprise even the most jaded clientele.

Magicians have often found work with motor manufacturers. Usually they are asked to produce, vanish, levitate or perform some other magical feat with the new vehicle. The imagination of the company is often limited to the last thing they saw someone else do at a trade fair. Fortunately when David Berglas and David Ball got together they created something entirely different, a presentation with style and mystery in which magical thinking played a

With the ship, where the cars mysteriously appeared on

unique role.

The experience began with invitations that arrived at the prospective buyers' homes. They were asked to book a date in their diary for the launch of British Leyland's latest range of vehicles. The launch would take place over a couple of days in Liverpool and buyers could take along their partners for what promised to be an enjoyable event. A map was included so that they could find their way there. It was just as well because at first sight the venue was not quite what they had been expecting.

It wasn't the best part of Liverpool, somewhat seedy in fact. They parked their vehicles in an indoor car park that was little more than rough ground, stained with oil and pitted with holes. A surly attendant, grubbily dressed, barked orders at them when they tried to park, "Not here, over there!" The luxury hotel they had hoped for was nowhere in sight. The temptation to turn back must have been great.

Tired from the journey and with spirits dampened they walked through an unremarkable door to discover what other disappointments awaited them. And that's when the magic happened. The door was a gateway to another world and led into an opulent and thickly carpeted marquee populated by smartly uniformed and attractive girls who rushed forward to take coats, carry bags and fetch drinks. It was impossible to take it all in at once. The marquee was made of luxurious pink silk festooned with glittering chandeliers that gave off a warm sumptuous light. The contrast with the car park could not have been greater.

They waited in this luxurious wonderland, sipping their drinks and waiting for others to arrive, watching the surprise on their faces as they passed through the door. When there were about a dozen guests they were led across the marquee and into a smaller silk lined corridor. At the end of the corridor was a reception area where they were given room numbers and directed to their quarters. It was only on leaving the reception that they realised they had been surprised once again. They were now on board a ship!

In their rooms they found a welcome card and more instructions. Dinner would be served later that evening but they might want to occupy their time by taking a walk around the ship. If they required anything else they had only to ask. Some hours later the ship was at sea and many chose to have a stroll around the deck and take in the evening air, after which it was time to dress for dinner and make their way to the restaurant. The food was delicious and the entertainment, including a performance by David, was superb. They retired to a good night's rest with much to think about.

The next morning a presentation was held in the ship's theatre where they heard all about the features that the new Mini Metro had to offer. As yet no one had seen the car but it soon made a spectacular appearance. Set at either side of the stage were two large circular British Leyland logos several feet in diameter. The one on the left started to slowly revolve. Then it moved towards the audience, pushed forward on a huge piston. It continued to move forward, projecting into the theatre until a full size model of the new Mini Metro was revealed, neatly skewered on the piston. And as the piston revolved so did the car, its headlights blazing and its paintwork gleaming in the theatre lights. But that was not all. For the rest they would have to go up on deck where another surprise awaited them.

The night before the buyers and their wives had enjoyed taking the night air. Now they were at sea and the previously empty decks were laden with over a dozen brand new Mini Metros each one a different colour and chaperoned by an expert ready to explain its innovations and answer any questions. David Berglas had produced not one car but an entire fleet!

The ship's destination was the Isle of Man and it was there that the passengers disembarked and were able to test drive the new Mini Metros and enjoy themselves before returning to Liverpool. The promotion was extremely successful. Eighty to a hundred people took this magical mystery tour and the ship made eight round trips in just seventeen days.

When David was originally engaged for the project it was principally as an entertainer and lecturer. But having been invited to contribute ideas to the planned presentation the event took an entirely different turn and became something far more interesting and ambitious.

He came up with the idea of disguising the entire journey so that the guests had no idea what lay inside the dismal warehouse. The narrow corridor that they walked through was actually the gangplank that led into the ship. It was camouflaged with heavy carpeting and enclosed in walls of silk. The first inkling that anyone had that they were on board a ship was when they walked through the reception and down the corridor to their cabins.

The appearance of the fleet of cars on board a ship in the middle of the sea was accomplished through the elaborate use of camouflage. The cars were on deck throughout the entire journey but no one recognised them. Some were hidden under tarpaulins, others enclosed

Supervising the Mini Metro launch.

in dummy crates or shell structures that appeared to be part of the ship but could be removed quickly and easily. The unveiling was done when everyone was watching either the launch presentation or David's lecture.

The return journey to Liverpool was spent enjoying a pleasant lunch, picking up sales brochures and asking questions. The passengers left the ship in a happy mood via the pink marquee and were bid goodbye by the original parking attendant who was now freshly scrubbed, smartly dressed and the epitome of good manners and polite behaviour.

Within an hour and a half his manners would evaporate, he'd change his clothes and smudge dark grease across his face ready to reprise his former role. Meanwhile David would casually make a dozen Mini Metros disappear and, ironically, no one would be there to see it.

The Art Of Cold Reading

The Art Of Cold Reading

Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.

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