CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/SAATCHI & SAATCHI - Extending a New Zealand blueprint to Charlotte St. James Hall is shaking up Saatchis and about time too, Camilla Palmer says

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

roles.



"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

their plans.



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

says.



"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

people.



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

strategy.



"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

too.



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

indecision".



Whatever happens during the rest of the year's pitches, Saatchis is

unlikely to be accused of complacency in the future.



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