The news that Saatchi & Saatchi had axed 10 per cent of its London
workforce came as little surprise to most people. "What a relief," was
the response of one former executive at the agency. "What's taken them
so long?" asked another.
The catalyst to this much-needed pruning has been the arrival of the new
chief executive James Hall, a ten-year network veteran who previously
ran the New Zealand operation. He has been in Charlotte Street for
barely a month, and yet he's cleared out ranks of management, abolished
the role of managing partner within the agency, farmed out all media
planning - except Carlsberg Tetley - to Zenith, axed in-house PR, moved
healthcare to Team Saatchi, and Cause Connection to Octagon Media.
As well as saving pots of cash, Hall claims the cuts - up to 50 people
are leaving the agency - will result in a leaner Saatchis that will be
able to win pitches through more focused staff with clearly defined
"We have to concentrate on the core skills of the agency and this means
clearing out the non-core ones," Hall says.
While few are arguing with this approach, Hall's wholesale rejection of
the managing partner role is guaranteed to have ruffled feathers within
the agency. Of the three stripped of the title, only Stef Tiratelli has
a clearly defined new role, helping out in a new-business capacity.
It is unclear what the future holds at Saatchis for Paul Tredwell or
John Rudaizky, and Hall will not confirm what roles they will take
beyond account running. Neither Tredwell nor Rudaizky would comment on
The group culture instilled by Maurice and Charles remained strong after
their departure in 1994. Introduced primarily to reassure clients that
senior people were handling their account, the groups split Saatchis
into what were essentially eight "mini agencies".
Former employees of Saatchi & Saatchi's system insist that the structure
encouraged friendly rivalry between groups as they vied for new business
to boost their billings and staff numbers, but the eight sub-groups were
deemed too many by November 1998 and were reduced to four.
Each of these was headed by a managing partner, reporting to the then
joint chief executives Tamara Ingram and Adam Crozier. While the
structure undoubtedly continued to work at some level, the agency
disappointingly had just one win this year, Hennessey, demonstrating the
need for a rethink.
Now Hall's new structure has wiped out the old way entirely, and means
an 18-strong account management team will report directly to him. "It's
not about demotion - it's about getting the very best people working
directly with clients and lessening the communication path," Hall
"We are focusing on outcomes, not internal structures, so the flattest
profile is essential for making the most of our talents," he adds.
However, the move has prompted less positive reactions from those used
to the group structure.
"How is each senior manager going to remain motivated while just working
on one account?" questioned one former member of staff.
Nevertheless, shaving away layers of management is a move that worked
well for Hall in New Zealand, where he was renowned for his loathing for
hierarchy and politics - and he made no secret of his plans for London
on his appointment.
Though his arrival has prompted nothing but public good will from the
agency, it is perhaps no surprise that he has done the dirty work of
reorganising and chopping before he has had time to get to know
What this and the exit of the managing partner role also indicates is
Hall's no-nonsense approach to the individual. "The work is the crucial
factor," he said at the time of his appointment. Loyalty to the agency
has been given short shrift, further decreasing the likelihood that
Tredwell and Rudaizky will stay on.
It is significant that less creative blood has been shed. This mirrors
Hall's work in New Zealand where he brought the Wellington and Auckland
offices up to be two of the most creative in the Saatchi network. Only
five are leaving the creative department in London, four of them working
in the now farmed-out healthcare division. According to the executive
creative director Dave Droga, this is a clear sign of Hall's
"He understands the absolute importance of the creative offering - it's
what we're selling to the clients," he stresses. That said, the
departure of the creative director Matt Ryan last week as he pursues a
career in directing, does leave a big gap in the department.
The job cuts reinforce a shift in top-level management at Saatchis, as
the executive chairman Tamara Ingram now takes a role alongside Hall,
Droga and the planning director Kevin Dundas, all reporting to the
worldwide chief executive Kevin Roberts.
The shift indicates a decreasing profile for Ingram, who previously
enjoyed a role more senior than the other three. Typically, Hall
explains away the change by citing the need for a flatter structure and
the better use of Ingram's legacy with Procter & Gamble.
While Hall has been busily pruning, there are some signs of growth
Despite axing an in-house media planning department and its director,
Ron Mudge, Hall and Dundas are hatching an integrated system into the
agency, initially dubbing it communications planning.
Still in its early stages, Dundas claims the system will enable
creatives, account handlers and planners to convey ideas about strategy
and the clients' aims more easily, and bring the idea of Saatchis as a
fully-integrated agency to the fore. It will be headed by himself and
the newly-appointed integrated communications director Kathryn Gale.
For now, though, Saatchis must deal with the more pressing issue of
internal morale. Last Thursday's poorly attended party, intended to mark
the restructure, indicates the problems here. However, the majority of
those associated with the agency seem to recognise the long-term
benefits of Hall's ruthless move to end the "paralysis of
Whatever happens during the rest of the year's pitches, Saatchis is
unlikely to be accused of complacency in the future.