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Bangers and Mash

Will the real Matt Beaumont please stand up? Beaumont is the listed author of the notorious novel "e," a scathing roman a clef that rips into the smug creative climes of London ad agencies. The book was published last year in London, and Soho hasn't stopped buzzing since. "I cannot tell you how true this book is," Adages' deep throat in London, code name Felicity Shagwell, bubbles. "It's all about this ad network with everyone sucking up to the Americans, all these annoying twits and loser CEOs who want to get in on the action. It's so real. Everyone is trying to figure out who is who."

The book is written in the form of a string of internal e-mails at the fictional London shop Miller Shanks, which is allegedly based on McCann-Erickson's U.K. office. The drama centers on Miller Shanks' pursuit of the Coca-Cola account.

So real, indeed, Adages is left wondering whether this is the U.K. version of "Primary Colors." Adages called scores of people in the U.K. advertising business and although most said they knew of Beaumont, or knew somebody who said they knew him, or heard of him, no one seems to know him personally. Some say Matt Beaumont is the pseudonym of a McCann-Erickson copywriter who is afraid to lose his job. That would mean that the photo of a fashionably bald and earringed chap in the book's flyleaf, with an accompanying pithy biography telling readers that he lives in North London with a wife and child, is a put on.

Others say Beaumont was already canned at McCann, and the disgruntled scribbler unsheathed his poison pen. One of the characters in the book, Jim Weissmuller, CEO of fictional Miller Shanks Worldwide, is supposed to be Jim Heekin, CEO of McCann-Erickson Worldwide in New York.

The main target in the novel is a venomous little "gobshite" (in "e" vernacular) named David Crutton, who is the agency CEO. According to the British trade press, Crutton is a thinly veiled caricature of Ben Langdon, the chairman-CEO of McCann London. Langdon is legendary for being a straight-talking bleeder who does not suffer fools gladly.

Oddly, Langdon was not upset about the stinging caricature. Ms. Shagwell tells Adages that Langdon showed up at a McCann meeting carrying a copy of the book, which he slammed on a table. Everyone in the room expected a tirade. Instead, Langdon boasted about it.

Adding fuel to the conspiracy fires was this e-mail Adages received last week from Langdon himself.

From: Ben Langdon

To: rlinnett@crain.com

RE: Fooled You

When Jim Heekin and I decided to launch McCann-Erickson Publishing we wanted to use viral and integrated marketing.

We agreed to write a book about a global ad agency, write it under an alias (has anyone ever employed Matt Beaumont?-check your records) and decided that the best way to achieve viral publicity was to fool people into thinking that I was Crutton and that Jim was Weissmuller.

We figured that this was bound to get trade journals on both sides of the pond desperate to write about our book. It's worked. Another success for the McCann WorldGroup, eh?

--Ben

Heekin couldn't be reached for comment at press time.

Got an Adage? Tell Richard by phone (212) 210-0243 or e-mail rlinnett@crain.com.