Analysis: News Analysis - Cabal docusoap: absolutely fabulous or ill-fated PR stunt?/BBC cameras can seriously damage your company’s health, says Mark Tungate

It is perhaps appropriate that BBC 2’s new ’docusoap’ about the launch of Cabal Communications was originally to be called Tears in the Toilet. After all, industry myth has it that when staff at St Luke’s saw a preview of a similar programme about their ad agency, some of them burst out crying.

It is perhaps appropriate that BBC 2’s new ’docusoap’ about the

launch of Cabal Communications was originally to be called Tears in the

Toilet. After all, industry myth has it that when staff at St Luke’s saw

a preview of a similar programme about their ad agency, some of them

burst out crying.



Apparently, the screening of the Cabal programme did not provoke similar

reactions - and it’s probably fair to say that Trouble Between the

Covers isn’t as bad as it could be.



Even so, chief executive Sally O’Sullivan, who is generally regarded as

a smart cookie, still comes over as the blueprint for a character in Ab

Fab. And ad director Charmian Denison, also no slouch at her job, is

transformed into an ambitious starlet with a knowing line in sexual

banter.



In fact, some might question Cabal’s decision to open its doors to the

cameras in the first place.



Nearly every other organisation that has done so has come a cropper. The

merciless dissection - also by the BBC - of Marie Claire and its then

editor Glenda Bailey springs to mind.



But O’Sullivan is reportedly pleased with the programme. And Denison is

certainly unrepentant: ’I enjoyed every minute of it. Of course, it was

nerve-wracking at first, having a camera right next to you, but you get

used to it.’



Denison brushes aside suggestions that the programme made her look more

fluffy than professional. ’In fact, given some of the footage they had,

I came over as more professional than I could have done. My only

criticism is that the programme focused on Front - but that’s because

Piers Hernu (editor) is a character, while shots of people looking at

pictures of furniture on a light box aren’t that gripping.’



A cynic might say that these comments smack of damage limitation. But it

may just be that Cabal’s staff have taken a realistic approach to the

experience, accepting that the docusoap is, at the end of the day, a

form of entertainment.



’It’s not an insightful look into the business,’ concedes ad director

Mark Lonergan, ’but it’s a light, amusing look at an industry that has

not been focused on too often. In terms of our profile, this can only be

great for Cabal.’



At St Luke’s, marketing and new-business director Juliet Soskice joined

just after the documentary makers had been given the green light in a

vote by staff.



’It was like, ’oh, shit’,’ she confesses. ’But my personal view is that

we came out of it well, although other members of staff may have

different feelings. The documentary team had complete access and could

have stitched us up, but I don’t think they did.’



Soskice says you should only agree to be filmed if ’you have total

confidence in your company. You have to be unembarrassed, unashamed and

proud’.



This appears to be the attitude at Cabal Communications. Lonergan

comments: ’From a business point of view, would we do it again?

Absolutely.’



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