Consisting entirely of e-mails, e spends a few weeks in the company of Miller Shanks, an advertising agency embarked upon the quest to land Coca-Cola – the account they would sell their collective grandmothers in a car boot sale to acquire.
A CEO with an MBA from the Joseph Stalin School of Management
A director who is a genius, if only in his own head
Creatives with remarkable brains, if only in their trousers
A copywriter with the two things an adwoman should never let show — underarm hair and a conscience
Secretaries who drip honey and spit cyanide
The sad git in accounts
This is one pitch that nobody will ever forget…
As anyone who’s ever worked in an office will know, the art of verbal communication is slowly dying off. Rather than poke your head around your monitor to speak to the person opposite, you’ll fire a quick email their way. Why get up out of your chair to discuss that important meeting at three when it’s just as easy to tap on your keyboard and click ‘send’?
But have you ever wondered what’s going on in the Outlook sent boxes of your colleagues? Just what are they talking about with each other all day?
Matt Beaumont’s debut e lets us have a look at exactly that. We slip into the email network of a top London advertising firm at the turn of the century to watch on as the Miller Shanks team prepare themselves for the pitch of their lives – Coca Cola.
With multiple narratives, there are multiple story lines, so I’m not even going to try and explain much more than that. But with stolen ideas, looming deadlines, power struggles, inter-office relationships, dark secrets, blazing tempers, a shake-up in the office structure, sex, lies and video tape, the action never stops.
The book may be set in an advertising agency, but Mad Men it ain’t. The vicious emails from the company’s CEO, the lewd banter of the office lads-in-residence, the catty comments from the PAs, the pompous senior staff pulling rank every day, the often random input from the sad git in accounts and the hilarious comments from the head honcho at Miller Shanks’ Finnish office make for one company who have a lot to say for themselves. And it’s very, very funny.
At first, I was a bit dubious at the idea of a book made up entirely of emails. It is difficult to follow at first. Getting your head round who’s who, who does what, and what all the advertising speak means does take a while, but once it all slots into place, you’ll be hooked. To coin an over-used book-reviewing phrase, I really couldn’t put it down. The short, snappy, witty emails make it really easy to get caught up in the action.
This is a wickedly funny read, but it has a strong plot too. It isn’t just about the gags. The characters develop, disaster unfolds and you do find yourself getting quite attached to the dysfunctional bunch in the Miller Shanks office.
If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ll recognise every one of the characters in this book. Your colleagues, past and present, are all present and correct. It’s all backstabbing, bitching and bullsh*t – and it’s marvellous.
Better still, just last year Beaumont penned the follow-up, e Squared. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy it right now…