CLOSE-UP: PERSPECTIVE; Saatchi touch has thrived at both its new and old home

Like it or not, 1995 will be remembered as the year of the Saatchi affair. A year ago Campaign was wondering just what Maurice would do and what it would cost Saatchi and Saatchi if he did it. We soon found out, but were taken by surprise by the speed and scale with which events unfolded.

Like it or not, 1995 will be remembered as the year of the Saatchi

affair. A year ago Campaign was wondering just what Maurice would do and

what it would cost Saatchi and Saatchi if he did it. We soon found out,

but were taken by surprise by the speed and scale with which events

unfolded.



There was a general view that the whole debacle did the industry much

harm in the eyes of the watching world. With the benefit of a little

distance, I would maintain that opinion - with one rider.



The advertising industry itself has been energised by the affair. Love

it or loathe it, M&C Saatchi has exploded on to the scene to become a

real power. It is the most successful start-up in British advertising

history, topping even Lowe Howard-Spink. Admittedly, the majority of

that business, at least initially, was ripped out of the heart of the

old agency. However, with the likes of PPP, Courage and Glaxo, the

agency is now making a mark entirely of its own.



It will be a looming presence over many of the major reviews announced

during the next year. Agencies with rocky client relationships will look

over their shoulders. The place, big as it is already, is largely

unencumbered by conflict. It also has some of the finest new-business

fiends around. It will make for a succession of very lively contests,

several of which the agency will win. It is too full of top talent not

to.



What the industry must hope is that when the moratorium on poaching

Charlotte Street’s business ends in the new year, the ensuing conflict

is clean. It would be naive to believe that no more business will move,

and I’m sure that Saatchis has a mental list. It would be surprising if

it was major business, though.



This is in part a tribute to the extraordinary way that Charlotte Street

has pulled through its ‘annus horribilis’. The place could have fallen

apart. Instead, Jennifer Laing has proved to be a wise appointment (at

least for the short term), and she and her team have developed an

incredible fighting spirit. Ironically, this is partly down to the type

of individual the senior managers now at M&C hired and nurtured when

they ran the place. Helped greatly by the boon of the National Lottery

account, and the loyalty of clients such as Procter and Gamble and the

Norwich Union, the agency has bounced back from its spring nadir. The

creative department, in particular, is ‘up for it’, and Charlotte Street

too now has considerable gaps in its client portfolio. It would be a

surprise if the place did not start making inroads on to pitch-lists

soon.



The Saatchi spirit now clearly resides in two major agencies. If it can

be deployed on behalf of their respective clients, and not against each

other, 1996 may be a vintage year for advertising.



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