Saatchi & Saatchi chief executive Nicky Bell resigns, hands agency leadership to Paul Wilson

Saatchi & Saatchi NZ sent out a release this afternoon announcing the resignation of chief executive Nicky Bell, who will hand over the reins to current general manager Paul Wilson (promoted to managing director) in March. 

This brings an end to Bell’s six-year tenure, which started in 2010 when she took over from Andrew Stone.

She is yet to announce her next move.

At the time of joining, Saatchi had endured a few very tough years, which culminated in a host of big executive staff changes, including the departure of executive creative director Dylan Harrison after only one year with the agency.  

It didn’t take long for Bell’s impact at the agency to be felt. She recruited a new executive creative director in Antonio Navas, with whom she had previously worked at Ogilvy & Mather New York. And the pair with strong support from director of strategy Murray Streets started to turn the fortunes of the agency around, getting it back into a good creative groove.

“I’m so proud of the transformation we were able to drive within the business and our culture,” said Bell in the release. “Our team, along with some incredible client partners, made this role a real joy.”

  • Read the full story behind how Bell helped to turn around the agency here

Over the last few years, Saatchi has produced some memorable campaigns for many of its clients.

Highlights include Tui’s ‘beer plumber’ and ‘Catch a Million’ campaigns, the Spark brand launch, the masochistic kitty Corolla ad, and the Hilux spot starring a wild boar and a chimpanzee.


But nothing is permanent in this industry. And in recent times, Saatchi has again gone through a more difficult patch, losing the Spark and Tui accounts and also having its major brand ad for the new Hilux pulled.

In some ways, things have gone full circle and Wilson will now be charged with reinvigorating the agency in much the same way that Bell did when she took over six years ago.

And Bell believes that he has what it takes to do it.     

“It’s great to be leaving the agency in such talented hands. Paul is a natural leader,” she said.  “Our clients and people trust and respect him. He has an amazing eye for the work, the kind of drive and optimism that’s infectious, and the guts to deal with the tough stuff in our business. Gus [Roberts] and Corey [Chalmers] are brilliant buggers, and they make me laugh every day. They’ve have had a stellar first year as joint ECDs. The three of them, along with the incredible leadership team, are going to do amazing things.”

Wilson has been with Saatchi since 2013, joining from Colenso, where he served as the joint head of account management (he has also previously worked at DDB).

While Wilson certainly does inherit an agency that’s not the strongest it’s ever been, Saatchi has also announced a few recent account wins.

The agency has picked up the cross-Tasman accounts of Mount Franklin and Deep Spring (part of the Coca-Cola Amatil Group), while it has also won the local business of the Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC), the Ministry of Justice and Bay Audiology.

And Saatchi has already been working on these accounts, currently developing the new Sorted website for the Commission for Financial Capability and releasing an entertaining campaign for Mount Franklin water.   


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