Back in the Sixties, one of the sponsors of White Sox games on the radio was General Finance, and listeners were urged to call “Friendly Bob Adams at Andover 3-2020.” Of course, when you called the number you would reach someone who would tell you that Bob wasn’t in the office, but maybe they could help you. The fact was, “Friendly Bob Adams” didn’t exist. He was a fictitious character that existed solely for the purpose of getting people to call. Their trademark was the outline of a man’s head with a big smile and a telephone receiver pressed up to his ear. One of my aunts worked for General Finance and had a Zippo lighter with “Friendly Bob’s” picture on it.
Back in the day, companies would do that, give you a name to call. The company I worked for for years had one such person whose name was Robert Carpenter. His name was in all the ads for our software. The switchboard operators in Atlanta knew, when a call came in for him, to transfer it to “Robert’s” administrative person. She would tell them that Robert wasn’t in, but he’d be sure to have someone call back. She’d then call whatever region the caller was from and tell the regional sales manager, who would then assign a salesperson to call the prospect back.
Robert also worked in the regional offices in Accounts Receivable. If a client was behind in paying their bill, they’d get a nastygram in the mail from Robert telling them to pay up or to call him. The same charade would happen there: when the client called asking for Robert, they’d be passed on to the AR person who would then deal with them. We had a very nice woman at our office who did this. She told the story once about the client who kept telling her he had already spoken to Robert about it. I realize it’s kind of sexist to say this, but it’s true: if they had gotten a letter from our AR person, they might not even call, but Robert Carpenter? That name meant business.
I think they should have given the AR Robert a different name, like Vito Matesi. The name makes it sound like you’ll get your thumbs broken if you don’t pay up. Not very friendly, but effective.