The Gate Keeper (Chapter 6 In which flames re-kindle)
by Andrew Miller TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande is an agency in crisis. Their ‘basket of boutique services’ strategy has bombed. Only a massive new project can keep the doors open – all eyes are now on the corporate tent at Mangaung. Far in the background, an emergency replacement executive PA with decades of experience makes important decisions. Interns rise, board members take unexpected steps and things begin to change…
The Chairman of the Board ponders a ship jagging into the rocks while ducking love arrows from decades past…
In which flames re-kindle
Tim Broadbent had run TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande for two decades and been an active board member for almost the same time. He had been in the ad business for over 45 years and now, in the twilight of his career, the time when he should have been sinking with steady dignity into his Plett mansion and regular early morning golf, he was staring right down the barrel.
The worst of it was that none of the idiots who masqueraded as creative business people had the blindest idea of what was actually going on. TBWSJWBN was jagging into the rocks like an old Chinese oil tanker and no one even realised it, let alone cared.
The problems had begun with digital. Didn’t they always.
It sounded like a great idea, the expansion past advertising into the delivery of a basket of boutique communications services customised to the client’s unique strategic and operational requirements, but the reality was that they had pissed millions against the wall setting up a division of teenagers running Facebook pages and blowing the budget on Google ads. The other boutique services in the basket, despite the ongoing reassurances of that consultant guy who may or may not have been shuffling in the background with Nonhlanhla, were unable to pick up the slack. Now that the double dip recession had turned into a nation wide race to pull all creative and communications in-house, TBWSJWBN was left with two month’s salaries in the bank and nothing in reserve.
If that little brat they called a CEO didn’t manage to pull a barrel of instant cash at Mangaung, it was tickets.
And then there was Mama E. Tim slurped heavily on his coffee and grew even more pissed off. He had worked with Melinda Ensworthy when they were both in their late forties and and it had been an emotionally draining and operationally futile exercise. Not only did she have a nasty coke habit, she also had a deadbeat graphic designer as a husband and absolutely no idea of what she was really talking about. Imagine his surprise, then, when popping in to make sure the little sh#!t CEO was at least coming to the office, he should run smack into the gargantuan form of Mama E. Worst of all, she seemed to have bestowed that ridiculous nick name on herself, as she let slip to him via a series of bizarrely clumsy nods and winks. He had yet to get to the bottom of her presence at TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande, but if this ship really was going down, he could think of no worse fate than hitting the bottom with her by his side.
Tim Broadbent, Chairman of the Board, dropped a hundred Rand note on the restaurant table, hoisted his almost-retired old body from the table and went to work.
You won’t believe who I ran into yesterday! Tim Broadbent! Now Tim and I, well we go way back, back to when it was was just TBW Smith and Jones, and I can tell you, and only you really, that we very nearly… well, it was exceptionally close and the vibes were ever present. Were it not for my commitment to Gerald and generally honest nature, anything could have happened. I remember a few office parties where things got seriously silly and up close and well, I might be wrong, it could just be old age, but I would be lying if I didn’t say there wasn’t still a bit of lingering atmosphere when he arrived yesterday. The first look doesn’t lie, and he looked like you could have knocked him over with a feather.