CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKERS - Saatchis' appointment balances the yin and yang

It has a good team in Kevin Dundas and Tony Granger, Francesca Newland writes.

The Financial Times tends not to cover the appointments of new chief executives in advertising agencies.

But there's something about Saatchi & Saatchi, the only agency brand that has entered the vernacular, that persuades the editors of the FT that Saatchis management changes deserve a few column inches.

So there it was last Thursday. A black-and-pink picture of a chuffed Kevin Dundas, replete with his promotion to chief executive.

Saatchis' is averaging a new chief executive every two years, and almost as many creative directors.

So should clients be celebrating the new duopoly of Dundas and the recently arrived creative director, Tony Granger, as the FT apparently believes they should?

When Saatchis' Publicis parent plundered the London agency's hottest property - its creative director, Dave Droga - to make him its global creative chief at the end of last year, it was clear there would be further implications for Charlotte Street. Droga, Dundas, and the outgoing chief executive, James Hall, were a happy and successful triumvirate. The three clearly got on; they were drinking buddies outside of work.

Hall had stripped Saatchis back, slashing staff and culling ancillary services such as its in-house media strategy unit. The leaner operation responded well to Droga's creative flair and their success peaked when Saatchis was named the Agency of the Year in 2002 at Cannes.

Dundas played an important part in this success. Hall is flamboyant and can blurt out things he shouldn't, while Droga too is passionate about his beliefs and has a keen sense of fun. Dundas kept them in line; he was their perfect foil. Droga calls him the "ranger". He says: "He's very thoughtful, responsible, a good guy. He's very disciplined rather than loud."

Granger, however, doesn't require a perfect foil. He arrived in January from Bozell New York with all the confidence of a man hand-picked for the job by Bob Isherwood, the worldwide creative chief, and in possession of the blessing of Kevin Roberts, the network's chief executive.

Since then, he's appointed a new head of TV, Bartle Bogle Hegarty's Andy Gulliman. The department has lost a lot of Droga-loyal creatives, which Granger argues gives him space to introduce fresh talent and new perspectives.

For now, Granger appears to dominate the partnership. He jumps up enthusiastically to show some forthcoming print work for Procter & Gamble he is rightfully proud of. He's also the one who trots out Kevin Roberts' brand philosophies ("We're not an advertising agency, we're an ideas company" or "One team, one dream is at our heart".) So groomed is his performance you feel like you could reach out and touch his ambition.

Meanwhile, Dundas takes a quieter approach. He explains how the success for Saatchis of the past two years gives him and Granger the perfect platform for growth. He says: "We've taken a big agency and got it to the correct size. Now we have to work like a nimble, swift, focused agency.

"We plan to introduce a flatter structure. You want the best people to be working on the business, not to be managing other people working on the business." The pair still plans to appoint a managing director, however.

"Between now and Christmas, we will look at everything from the brand, to the management. We can now design the agency for moving forward," Dundas says.

And change it must. Saatchis' recent creative glory has distracted from a poor business performance. The latest Nielsen Media Research figures show billings are down by almost 12 per cent, a decline that saw the agency fall from sixth to ninth place in the agency rankings.

Teetering so close to falling out of the top ten seems inconceivable for the agency that for so long dominated the London ad world.

The loss of Sony across Europe was a painful blow, but instead of making up the shortfall there have been further prestigious losses including Castlemaine XXXX, Bisto and most recently, Archers.

The agency has also failed to make it on to this year's most important pitchlists. The creative fame generated by Droga has not been converted into business success.

So what are Dundas and Granger going to do about this? They argue that the lean and focused agency will be better able to respond to client needs.

Saatchis faces the same problem that is tormenting all of London's big agencies right now. Substantial advertisers are shifting to smaller operations.

Saatchis lost Castlemaine and Archers to Mother, while Sony moved to Fallon.

Within this climate, Dundas and Granger's plan to present the agency as lean and flexible, distancing it from its lumbering past, makes a lot of sense.

There are already signs of efficiency. Dundas is not relocating to the sixth floor, where his predecessors have basked. Instead, he's staying with the creatives on the second floor to facilitate interaction with Granger. They are also introducing a policy that saw them promise staff that they will deliver a decision on any request within 24 hours. "There'll be no procrastination," Dundas declares.

Under Granger, Saatchis' awards tally is likely to remain high. He has an enviable knack for pushing simple ideas that translate fantastically into print work. "You have to be simple, visual when it comes to print work," he says, pulling out an ad for Olay's Total Effects anti-wrinkle cream, which shows only the bottle's lid, which happens to look just like an iron.

This kind of clarity will stand him in good stead for building Saatchis, and should make him a good partner for Dundas. Granger says: "Kevin's a planner, he's trained to look beyond things, to be astute. He's a deep thinker. That's the yin. The yang is me and I work by gut. I like things done yesterday, not tomorrow. Kevin's patient."

Dundas' immediate task will be to build relations with senior-level clients.

His planning background means this won't come as second nature to him but an affable, yet sensible, outlook should help.

He judges the success of the agency by its creative product, saying: "Judge us on the work. If we don't do the work well, we won't have the right clients and won't retain the right people."

Such an attitude should yield them a strong working relationship, even if they lack the colour of Saatchis' former management teams.

If Saatchis is looking for a long-term management team, which its clients must be missing, Dundas is a good bet. However, Granger, with all his ambition, is less likely to hang around. "I'll stay here for as long as it takes," he says in a rare unguarded moment.

GRANGER QUESTIONNAIRE

Age: 42

Lives: Gerrards Cross, Bucks

Family: Wife, Claire, sons, Gary (16), Richard (8), and daughter, Tori

(5)

Favourite ad: I don't have one

Describe yourself in three words: Difficult, difficult, difficult

Greatest extravagance: Art

Most treasured possession: "Red Pepper" by the artist Aaron Fink

Most admired agency: Mother. They dare to be different in everything

they do - just fantastic

Living person you most admire: Nelson Mandela. For his ability to

forgive the people that stole 30 years of his life

One to watch: My waistline. Man, this warm beer is excellent

Motto: Faint heart never won fair maiden

DUNDAS QUESTIONNAIRE

Age: 41

Lives: Fulham

Family: Wife, Liz, sons, Hamish (6), Oliver (5) and daughter Isabella,

(11 months)

Favourite ad: Volkswagen "snowplough"

Describe yourself in three words: Passionate, focused, stubborn

Greatest extravagance: My cars/Liz's credit card

Most treasured possession: Pilot's licence

Most admired agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners

Living person you most admire: Neil Armstrong

One to watch: Hybrid Fuel Technology from Toyota

Motto: Twist

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