Even more important, the agency has proved itself capable of holding its
own in the most savage of economic downturns by becoming the top ranking UK agency group by income, according to the latest IPA table.
It's all a welcome contrast to the angst-ridden days of the early
Charles and Maurice Saatchi had departed in the most public bust-up in
advertising history, taking the most charismatic senior managers with
them. The agency seemed in danger of becoming an anonymous middle-ranker turning out competent but not outstanding work. Publicly, the place dubbed "oldco by defectors at the brothers' "agency-in-exile"
maintained the facade of preserving a culture which had been irreparably damaged. Privately, resentment and bitterness was devouring it.
Much credit, therefore, to James Hall, the incoming chief executive, who has grasped nettles that his predecessors either wouldn't or couldn't.
Hall has had to make some tough calls. Last summer's jobs cull,
representing 10 per cent of the workforce, was all the more difficult
for being long overdue. Moreover, he seems to have recognised the
limitations of a layer of management hurriedly promoted at a time of
crisis but neither natural leaders nor necessarily right for the long
haul back to health.
In laying the foundations for a renaissance, Hall
has undoubtedly been helped by the sale of Saatchis to Publicis. Instead
of insecurity and uncertainty that inevitably haunts an agency network
deemed to be "in play", the group is now firmly harnessed to the global
ambitions of its French parent.
The Antipodean alliance of Hall and his executive creative director,
Dave Droga, has echoes of earlier times when Aussie imports such as Bill Muirhead epitomised the Saatchis "can do ethos.
Whisper it, but Saatchis seems to have discovered some of its old
chutzpah. As Saatchis of old built its reputation outside the advertising
establishment and displayed a healthy contempt for playing it by the
rules, so today's agency is beginning to display similar traits.
And a good thing too. A UK adscene in which the name Saatchi & Saatchi
isn't an influential force just wouldn't be the same.