You have to hand it to Maurice Saatchi. He knows how to stay on the
ad industry’s centre stage - at least from the point of view of the
general public and the average Fleet Street journalist.
Just one week after the audacious and imaginative series of national
newspaper reports about M&C Saatchi’s ’pounds 80 million’ BT win (Diary,
last week), The Financial Mail on Sunday has tipped Maurice as a likely
bidder for his old Saatchi & Saatchi network.
Let’s leave aside the question of where Maurice would raise the funds
for such an acquisition or what the strategic logic would be for either
party. I thought he looked lovely in his photo. There he was, adorning
an article about his worldwide expansion plans, leaning in statesmanlike
fashion on a model globe. Magical stuff.
Of course, everyone in the industry is spitting at the level of exposure
still afforded to Lord Saatchi by the media. But even they must admit
that his front page picture may just have been enough to tempt the
average Mail on Sunday reader to pay some attention to the boring old
financial bit for once.
Why? Because he’s a star. And only a fool would dismiss the value of
this self-perpetuating phenomenon to his advertising agency.
After all, chief executives and their marketing directors are members of
the public too, and no less susceptible to the aura of celebrity. In the
real world - as opposed to the one in which Tim Delaney and Robin Wight
are ’famous’ - Maurice and his brother Charles are the only ad people
anyone has heard of. By dint of this, their appeal - and that of their
agency - is unique.
As for the story itself ... well, there were no factual errors in it but
there weren’t any facts either. The only direct quote from Maurice was
the highly perceptive observation: ’I don’t know if we are going to be
able to build a global network on our own.’ The closest thing to hard
news was the line that ’top advertising guru’ Maurice Saatchi was
’considering’ plans to merge the two agencies bearing his name. The rest
was background and reaction - worth reading for the response of David
Herro, the Saatchis investor who pulled the plug on Maurice’s tenure at
Saatchi & Saatchi plc, and the words of a Saatchis spokesperson.
Herro invited Maurice to call him if he wanted to make an offer, while
the spokesperson took advantage of the situation to talk up the asking
price for a network that is generally agreed to be ’in play’ at the
Perhaps their relaxed reactions indicate that they take the threat of a
bid from Maurice about as seriously as the City does. And how seriously
is that? Come Monday morning, shares in Saatchi & Saatchi were unmoved.
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