Try as you might, it’s hard to imagine the words ’Saatchi &
Saatchi’ and ’global creative boutique’ being uttered in the same
Harder still to comprehend why Kevin Roberts has done so in what seems a
puzzling vision of the group’s future by its worldwide chief
Brushing aside any suggestion that Saatchis will sacrifice its
independence, Roberts - remarkably - asserts that ’there is room for one
global creative boutique and that is what Saatchi & Saatchi is’
(Campaign, last week).
Would this be the same Saatchi & Saatchi that once sought to be the
world’s biggest communications powerhouse? The one that saw the trend
towards the globalisation of markets before most others did?
Almost two decades on, Saatchis has had to settle for a less exalted
place in the world pecking order. As everybody else was going global,
the network was too enfeebled to reap the fruits of its prophesies.
Roberts’ ’global creative boutique’ idea seems like a desperate attempt
to find and justify a positioning.
For a start, he promises an independent future which, as the boss of a
public company, is not within his gift.
It may only be by becoming part of a larger empire that Roberts’
ambition can be realised. Just as Bartle Bogle Hegarty is able to retain
creative credibility by having Leo Burnett as its counterbalance, so
True North or Interpublic may be among the few groups with the resources
to allow Saatchis to be what Roberts wishes.
But although there may be a gap in the market for a ’global creative
boutique’, is there a market in the gap?
It’s doubtful. Creative boutiques tend to flourish in local markets
where young talent is attracted to them because they hold true to their
founding philosophies and are stimulating places to work.
Moreover, Roberts’ aim would require a huge cultural leap by the network
and may be incompatible with a client list on which conservative
advertisers such as Procter & Gamble figure so prominently.
If Roberts really wants to give Saatchis a new focus he might consider
P&G’s problems, which many feel symbolise the way the old economy is
giving way to a new breed of communicators wanting not only creativity
but accountability. Saatchis must present itself not as a ’creative’
boutique but as a ’commercial’ one.