The first question posed by the announcement of swingeing job cuts
at Saatchi & Saatchi is why it took so little time for James Hall, who
has barely had time to warm the chief executive's chair since arriving
from New Zealand, to realise what should have been obvious to the
agency's senior management for months.
Just weeks into the job, Hall has grasped the nettle that others shied
away from, cutting some 50 jobs to produce what he hopes will be a
leaner and fitter agency more in keeping with the times.
To his credit, Hall has acted swiftly and decisively. The biggest pity
is that Saatchis is now seen to be paying the price of its previous
procrastination and allowing the glow of old glories to blind it to new
Extra assignments from Procter & Gamble and the Sony win can no longer
disguise what has been a bleak new-business record and what has become
an overwhelming need for remedial action.
The shame is that it has been taken not by those who considered
themselves the guardians of the Charlotte Street culture but by somebody
who has previously only witnessed it from the other side of the
As a result, Hall will be seen by some as a bulldozer driver who, in his
determination to sweep away the past, has knocked down some load-bearing
The "mini agency" structure may have had its shortcomings, but these
smaller units were important entry points for clients fearful that they
might be swallowed up and forgotten by an impersonal Saatchis
And there are bound to be criticisms that Hall has taken aim at the
wrong targets, hitting middle management the hardest in pursuit of a
"flatter" structure while leaving unscathed those who presided over the
agency's current predicament.
It's not Hall's fault that he has had to do the dirty work those before
him were either reluctant to carry out or lacked the power to do so.
But since he now has that unenviable task, he needs to show
assertiveness and sensitivity in completing the job. Not only must he
run the agency "barons" on a tight lead but tackle what could be a
serious staff morale problem.
That won't have been helped by the huge payouts to top managers on
completion of the takeover by Publicis or the sight of redundancy
victims leaving through a lavish and expensively refurbished reception
Above all, Saatchis must prove that what it has done really is in the
best interests of its clients and not just a cynical exercise in