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
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
This appears to be the attitude at Cabal Communications. Lonergan
comments: ’From a business point of view, would we do it again?