EDITORIAL: All eyes are on Hall to refresh Saatchis

James Hall is about to become the Sven-Goran Eriksson of UK advertising. Both are foreigners parachuted in to revive famous institutions.

James Hall is about to become the Sven-Goran Eriksson of UK advertising. Both are foreigners parachuted in to revive famous institutions.

For Sweden's Eriksson, it's the England football team. For New Zealand's Hall, it's Saatchi & Saatchi's London office, where he takes over as the chief executive next month, replacing Tamara Ingram, who becomes the executive chairman.

Both have unenviable tasks. While England no longer commands a place among the world's soccer elite, Saatchis has become an agency much like any other. Its new-business record is indifferent, its creative work rarely outstanding and its personality diluted by the other agency across town also bearing the Saatchi name.

The source of all this can be traced directly back to the upheaval precipitated by the departure of the Saatchi brothers six years ago. With its managerial heart ripped out of it, the agency hurriedly turned to Adam Crozier, its top media man, and Ingram, the only senior manager left who was close to its biggest client, Procter & Gamble.

Despite Crozier's coolness under media fire, insiders speak of a not always harmonious partnership with Ingram. Attempts at bringing in a chairman to compensate for a perceived lack of managerial experience at senior level seem only to have added to the tension.

As a result, the agency that once seemed to have an abundance of top-flight operators has had to make-do-and-mend in recent years with Ingram seemingly running to stand still, needing to spread her workload but with no obvious internal candidate to help shoulder the burden.

Hall arrives with some distinct advantages. He has built his reputation as the head of an agency long regarded as a creative jewel in the Saatchis network and will have a rapport with the coterie of antipodean executives now occupying the group's most senior positions.

Now he must show the same determination that enabled an agency from a small island on the other side of the world to make itself heard internationally.

That means kicking a static new-business machine into life and creating an environment that enables the agency to produce more of the great creative work upon which its reputation was built. In short, he must resurrect the old Saatchi chutzpah.


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