Close-Up: Profile - Unfazed Stanners promises meeting of minds

Saatchi & Saatchi's new executive creative director is unintimidated by the demands of the big time, Emma Barns writes. With last week's announcement that Kate Stanners is joining Saatchi & Saatchi as the agency's new executive creative director, she becomes one of only a handful of females ever to make it to the top of the creative greasy pole.

And, in doing so, she has taken on a much bigger, more high-profile department than she was used to at her previous agencies, St Luke's and BoymeetsgirlS&J.

This begs the obvious question of whether or not Stanners is up to the demands of the big time at Saatchis, where she will manage a department of more than 20 creative teams and work on some hefty clients including Procter & Gamble, Toyota and Carlsberg. This is in addition to playing a part in burnishing the agency's somewhat lacklustre image.

David Abraham, the general manager of Discovery Networks Europe and a former colleague of Stanners at St Luke's, certainly seems to think she will meet the challenge. Crediting her with being one of the best managers he's ever worked with, he says: "She's not easily intimidated. She's always worked on the biggest accounts and her time at GGT and Bates (between 1988 and 1995) means she has the big agency picture too. She's cuddly on the surface but she's not got where she is today without being steely underneath."

Stanners seems unfazed by her new position and claims to be excited by the prospect of working alongside Lee Daley, Saatchis' mercurial new chief executive, on developing the agency's non-traditional advertising thinking. "Saatchis is a parallel universe in terms of ideas to what I've been banging on about for years and working with Lee is a real meeting of minds. We share the same vision for the agency," she says.

As part of her brief, Stanners is keen to improve output, especially across accounts that are considered less creative. Saatchis has built a reputation for famous work on its smaller, and especially charity, clients but Stanners is keen to continue what Tony Granger, the outgoing creative head, started and improve its work across the board. "I don't want any nasties on the reel - consistent excellence and creativity on all clients is my definition of success," she says.

Certainly her previous creative reputation is solid enough. During her 15-year career, she has been responsible for work including the "how do you eat yours?" campaign for Cadbury's Creme Egg and, more recently, the "hmm, new shoes" commercials for Clarks.

With the likes of P&G showing a willingness to experiment with creative work and her own track record of re-inventing brands like Clarks, Stanners has not set herself an unattainable goal.

Perhaps, then, the only thing to slow her down will be the fact she is one of the tiny 17 per cent of creatives who are women. Abraham suggests that Stanners' gender might provide her with her biggest hurdle. "Being Saatchis' creative director is a big enough job but advertising is so macho," he says. "There's an expectation for her to change the industry and this is going to be a big responsibility." If Stanners is indeed the tough cookie she is reputed to be, then she will also need to rise to this challenge.


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