M&C Saatchi’s public face inspires opprobrium and admiration.
Nick Hurrell and Moray MacLennan are a powerful testimony to Saatchi and
Saatchi’s ‘nothing is impossible’ credo. Maybe that’s why the green-eyed
monster, jealousy, is never far from the duo.
Two years ago they were almost unknown Charlotte Street account men.
Now, through high energy and happy accident, they find themselves
fronting M&C Saatchi, the most talked-about agency in Britain.
‘Pools winners’ - a badge once reserved for the former Charlotte Street
senior managers, Roy Warman and Terry Bannister - has been dusted off
and pinned on Hurrell and MacLennan. ‘Sure they’re good at what they do
- but so are lots of others,’ one former Saatchis senior manager
declares, echoing a widespread view.
Recent events have only intensified the ambivalence shown towards them.
M&C Saatchi’s rise to Top 20 status in its first year of operation is a
phenomenal achievement. What’s more, the agency shows no sign of losing
momentum, chalking up a hat-trick of multi-million pound wins from
Gallaher, Energis and Walt Disney in as many weeks.
Throughout it all, Hurrell, 33, and MacLennan, 34, have been thrust
forward as the agency’s public face. Not bad, the cynics argue, for a
couple of bright but dutiful suits, allowed to blossom in the Charlotte
Street ‘hothouse’ and with a career path made easier for them by
But is the opportunist tag entirely fair? True, the pair have been on
hand when key jobs have fallen vacant and were swept up the Charlotte
Street hierarchy on the coat-tails of some high-profile accounts. But
they believe they’ve made their own luck. ‘Everybody at some point in
their life is in the right place at the right time,’ MacLennan says.
‘It’s knowing when you’re in the right place and when it’s the right
Certainly their enthusiasm and sharp minds made them natural Saatchis
fast-trackers. Alec Kenny, an ex-Charlotte Street media director,
recalls a couple of quick learners who ‘recognised very quickly that
they had to sell the ads and did so. They epitomised the ‘can do’
culture of the place.’
Hurrell and MacLennan joined Charlotte Street within two years of each
other. MacLennan, the son of an Army brigadier, came down from Christ’s
College, Cambridge with a law degree, recoiled at the formality of the
Inns of Court, and concluded advertising was far more exciting.
Hurrell, the son of of a former Welsh rugby international, majored in
modern languages at Bristol University and was influenced by his sales
director mother to seek a job in marketing, through which he discovered
Both men are gregarious and chummy but physically different. MacLennan
could easily be the next James Bond, while the chubby-faced,
bespectacled Hurrell’s similarity to the misfit child castaway in
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies caused him to be dubbed Piggy by
Their characters mirror their looks. MacLennan is the more outgoing and
appears to be the partnership’s dominant figure. He’s said to be great
fun at parties and capable of enlivening a karaoke night with a wickedly
accurate Bob Dylan impersonation. Hurrell, a less sure-footed and more
deferential figure, you suspect, would rather die than do any such
To find the source of their path to power it’s necessary to go back to
Charlotte Street’s high summer of the late 80s when the pair were
working on the highest profile accounts - booze, fags and British
Airways - in which the Saatchis principals took a special interest.
MacLennan found his niche as a protege of John Sharkey, staking his
claim with a consummate performance on the Silk Cut account, which gave
him access to Charles Saatchi, while establishing a second power base in
the BA team.
Hurrell’s progress was less spectacular but fuelled by the same boyish
enthusiasm. Sharkey, now BST-BDDP’s joint chief executive, recalls how
the two were about to board a plane at Madrid airport when their client
suddenly called for champagne and orange juice. Hurrell rushed off to
find it, then commandeered a police car to get back to the plane just as
it was preparing for take-off.
MacLennan, too, has learned the skills of client cultivation which can,
claim some who have worked with him, be tempered by over-emphasis on
safety. Chris Clark, the newly appointed Bates Dorland managing director
and a former member of MacLennan’s team, remembers his initial
reluctance to present ‘Beaver Espana’ to Club 18-30 without a less
raunchy creative back-up.
‘If Moray has a fault it’s that he’s a bit cautious,’ Clark notes. ‘But
he’s icy cool, isn’t prone to emotional outbursts, is a very good
delegator and lets you run your own show. He’s perfect management
material for a big organisation.’
That’s what Charlotte Street thought in March 1994 when Bill Muirhead,
the then chairman, was sent to revive the group’s sickly US operations,
and David Kershaw, his managing director, stepped up to replace him.
The confident prediction was that Kershaw, in keeping with the Saatchis
practice of pairing its most senior managers, would put MacLennan - his
successor as BA account director - in tandem with Tamara Ingram, who ran
the Procter and Gamble business.
Instead, Ingram was forced to wait her turn, thwarted by what was
thought at the time to be her unproven ability to inspire outstanding
Hurrell, in contrast, earned his spurs on the back of BT’s Stephen
Hawking commercial, Fuji and some outstanding work for Castlemaine XXXX.
‘Nick has a stunning history of getting out great creative work,’
Kershaw says. ‘As for Moray, he has the skill to handle big bits of
business with a maturity far beyond his years.’
Less certain is whether the pair will ever surmount the criticism hurled
at them for throwing in their lot with the ousted Maurice Saatchi and
helping lay the foundations for his eventual capture of the Gallaher and
‘Shabby,’ is one of the more polite descriptions of their actions.
Another former Saatchis senior manager is more brutal. ‘They had a duty
to staff and shareholders and they reneged on it. Their behaviour was
More than a year later, the pair remain hurt by the backlash against
them which they claim is the result of ignorance over what Hurrell
describes as ‘the most difficult decision of our lives’.
MacLennan resents what he believes was the questioning of his right to
choose in his own best interest. ‘There would have been more money and,
at the time, more security for us had we stayed. Going from a 700-strong
agency with a multi-million billing client list to one with nine people
and one client is what took the courage. Describing our behaviour as
reprehensible implies we had a moral duty to stay. We didn’t.’
Having made the choice, they now find themselves on a journey that
promises to be breathtaking but potentially hazardous should they ever
decide to get off.
‘For them it’s like playing rugby,’ a former associate comments.
‘They’ve been thrown the ball. All they have to do is make sure they
don’t drop it.’
A good game - as long as BA stays and the agency starts winning the
blue-chip multinational business it is best equipped to handle. And
Kershaw claims that because he and the other M&C Saatchi founders are
concentrating on other matters, Hurrell and MacLennan are shaping the
agency in a way which would never have been possible at Charlotte
The problem for the pair, as some see it, is that their fate is so bound
up with that of Maurice Saatchi. If things should go wrong, the fact
that they have never worked anywhere that doesn’t have the Saatchi name
on the door may limit their employment prospects.
Having made their bed, Hurrell and MacLennan may have little choice but
to lie on it. Although much to the chagrin of the green-eyed monster,
their present position looks mighty comfortable.