. . . fewer employees: Saatchi & Saatchi has well and truly entered its next phase with the announcement of some hefty restructuring. But trying to move the agency in a more unified direction has led to a few more high-profile casualties in the upper echelons.
The merry go round was in full swing yesterday, with the announcement of some new creative talent and news that deputy creative director Tim Huse was leaving for a posting with Sugar and Matt Shirtcliffe, creative director, direct, was leaving to set up his own agency.
The rumours about general manager of Saatchi & Saatchi DGS Tony Gardner were also true: Gardner was relieved of his posting but will work through June on several key projects. And, rounding off the “structural changes”, Sonya Berrigan’s position as managing director position has been “disestablished”.
Gardner believes new chief executive Nicky Bell, who has been in the role for around three months, was wise to take her time and do due diligence on the legacy she inherited from Andrew Stone and Mike O’Sullivan before making these difficult decisions.
The new structure claims to move away from traditional agency hierarchies, with senior account leaders now reporting directly to Bell, and an integrated multi-disciplinary (digital, direct, retail and advertising) creative department reporting to executive creative director, Dylan Harrison.
Bell hopes that by removing silos between disciplines and flattening hierarchies the agency will better enable the development and delivery of ideas for clients and consumers and promote a more organic process for delivering compelling and effective ideas for clients.
“Consumers no longer differentiate between ‘online and offline’ channels, nor should agencies,” she says. “Our clients are astute marketers; hungry for progressive communications solutions to help them achieve profitable growth.”
She says there has been a good response from Saatchi’s clients to the early creative ideas and plans for the agency.
“This process has been good for us. We’ve taken an objective look at where we stand in the world, and approached the changes with honesty and integrity. While this has resulted in very difficult decisions for several people, we’re confident the changes will benefit our clients’ brands and services, and the wider Saatchi & Saatchi team over the longer term,” says Bell.
Gardner rejoined Saatchi in March 2008 after six years away working in advertising and digital roles in Australia, Asia and Europe. He, Aaron Dustin and Matt Shirtcliffe set up Saatchi DGS, Saatchi’s Digital and Direct offering in 2008.
“I’ve been lucky enough to work at Saatchis twice now, first for seven years in the 90s in Wellington, learning from the likes of James Hall, Kim Thorp, Kate Smith and Geoff Ross. And this time to draw on my advertising and digital experience to build a genuine digital capability in t he agency.”
He says he “has a lot of Saatchi running in him” and while he’s disappointed to be leaving, he says there’s no animosity. In fact, he says he worked closely with Bell to discuss what the best options for the agency were. And while he wouldn’t class it as taking one for the team, he says the role he would’ve wanted simply won’t exist in the future.
He thinks the unified agency model, rather than the current ‘Spaghetti Junction’ approach, is the way forward, especially as the communications mix becomes increasingly complicated. And removing the silos, one of which he was lucky enough to be in charge of for a few years, is part of that evolution.
“DGS was always a Saatchi strategy. Two or three years ago, it didn’t really have much digital or web credibility. I was working in Hong Kong and they brought me back. And that worked pretty bloody well [it picked up the Admedia Direct and Interactive Agency of the Year in 2009]. But it was effectively a group within a group.”
Gardner is the chair of the CAANZ Digital leadership Group and is also on the CAANZ Board and says it’s up to each board to decide if he will continue in these two roles. But he hopes there will be a little bit of leeway given to see where he lands before finishing up in July.
He says some overtures have already been made and he has had a couple of very early conversations about new postings. But he still has some time up his sleeve. He’s unsure, however, how much time Berrigan has, and he was unsure whether she, like him, was involved in discussions about the agency’s restructuring with Bell.
Berrigan has been with Saatchi since 2003 and spent a year in the role of managing director. She told Campaign Brief early this week that there was no truth in the rumour, “so she was either putting on a brave face or was unaware what was about to unfold”.