Sunday, March 25, 2007

41. Mang Bert

Ed Roa, Bert Timbol & Bing Madrinan
Bert Timbol or “Mang Bert” as he is popularly known in media and marketing circles was head of Market Research, then held the Marketing Services Manager position before being promoted to General Marketing Manager, a phenomenal rise in the organization. He was responsible for bringing the status of the research department into a full service department. During his term as head of Market Research he introduced for the first time research techniques that were being employed in the more advanced Unilever markets. In addition, a lot of innovations in research service were started in the early sixties such as the Consumer Research Van, and the Mobile Test Kitchen. Retail Audit and Television Coincidental surveys were among the first in the industry could be attributed to him.

Seated: Alma &Ed Roa, Alec Lever Standing: Bert and Tita Timbol

He did such a remarkable job in Market research and was rewarded by a promotion to Marketing Services Manager. The services within his responsibility were composed of market research, promotions and advertising. It was such a comprehensive responsibility that found him involved in almost everything that concerned the brands.

What set him apart from most of the managers were his glibness and his wide range of interests and knowledge. He was conversant about most topics dealing with humanities, politics and world history. The traditional perception of a researcher would be some sort of an egghead, a numbers whiz kid and nerd whose interests were caged in insipid narrow confines. He was completely the opposite of this. His incisive analysis of data and the sagacity of his interpretations lead to sound marketing decisions. Presentation was his forte. What made his presentations impressive was the way he embellished them with apt analogies that made the data come alive and his flair for the dramatic.

You could say that he was a virtual Renaissance man and as such would be allowed some latitude for eccentricities. What contributed to the perception of his being a larger than life personality was his penchant to share the highlights of his life story to anyone who was willing to listen. He gave a variety of accounts of himself being portrayed as characters of almost heroic proportions. He would be the boy courier in the resistance during the war, the artist and art connoisseur, an orator with few equals and could trace his ancestry to a noble lineage whose coat of arms he proudly displayed.

Bert’s favorite character was that of a wrangler whom he loved living the part down to the gaudy boots, blue denims, big ornate brass buckles and the cowboy hat. This earned him the monicker “Cowboy Cabalen”. He was quite like James Thurber’s Walter Mitty in the flesh.

Bert was quite capable of handling the demands of the job and became indispensable in marketing and was again rewarded by a promotion to General Marketing Manager, a position that extended itself as head of all marketing inclusive of brand groups and marketing Services. His frustration was that despite the tremendous weight of the responsibility of his position he was never conferred the marketing directorship of the company that at that time was held by Brian Roberts-Wray, a British expatriate.

Some in marketing did not applaud the promotion. He had detractors who thought that he was nothing but a despotic and opinionated charlatan. I thought that with all the items going through his tray everyday and the round-the-clock frequency of decisions that he had to make gave him little time to brook contrary opinions. Some of my contemporaries left the concern because of Bert’s peremptoriness. He definitely was the rising star and naturally some latched on to his wagon as he was on a winning run.

Given the magnitude of the job that Bert had to do each day he had to have somebody to assist him as he waded through the piles of paper needing his signature, proposals to read and consider, responding to correspondences both local and international, the myriad administrative items to attend to and his jammed meeting schedules. He recognized the mettle of the youthful and talented Boy de Claro and depended on him to play the role of a backstop and virtual factotum. Boy, in later years became the president of Wyeth a large multinational pharmaceutical company.

Bert was influential to the development of my career in PRC. As virtual head of marketing at that time all my movements in the organization were either initiated by him or were with his consent.

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