DIARY: AOL pulls Con trick on staff but Willis lands a digital dressing-down

In times of economic uncertainty, the question on the lips of every manager is "how do you keep a smile on the face of a workforce that, at any minute, could all be put out to grass?"

Well, one surefire way to cheer up your staff is to hire a celebrity for a works bash. So it was in this spirit that the purse-holders at AOL decided to invite that well-known model/actress Rachel Willis to hand out awards at a recent staff shindig. For those readers quite plausibly wondering "Rachel who?", Willis is none other than the irritating hologram Connie, the star of the AOL campaign that won Campaign's Turkey of the Year.

Rumour has it that AOL had originally wanted to use a cardboard cut-out of Connie, changing its plans only when it realised that hiring the real thing would be £100 cheaper. Needless to say, AOL has denied this rumour.

The willowy Willis stayed for "a good two hours (or doubtless the contracted time) and allegedly proved quite a hit with all but a few disgruntled members of staff who were disappointed she wasn't sporting her attractive computer-generated smock. A wag of a spokeswoman explained: "Even with all our technological prowess we couldn't quite summon up that dress on the day."

Other companies looking to follow suit should be warned that such a tactic doesn't always work, following news that a group of Sainsbury's workers is believed to have threatened to stage a walk-out if Jamie Oliver turns up at their Christmas bash.

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