While undoubtedly painful for him to admit, it’s refreshing to see an agency leader being so frank about the problems that he has encountered rather than attempt a cover-up or blame the work of unspecified malignant forces.
Whether Camilla Harrisson, who he has just drafted in as the chief executive to remedy the problem, shared the same frustration at M&C Saatchi, we don’t know (and given her admirable loyalty, she’s unlikely to say). While her tenure leading M&C Saatchi has been short and seen her navigate the agency through some rocky times, there’s optimism that it may soon come out the other side.
It's refreshing to see an agency leader being so frank about the problems rather than attempt a cover-up
New business – as ever – continues to be an area where M&C Saatchi appears sluggish (the arrival of the global Douwe Egberts business might have financially mitigated the loss of the Dixons account, although it lacks prestige), but the creative product seems to be on a reassuring – if slight – upward trajectory. In particular, M&C Saatchi’s most recent activity for Transport for London on the back of some nice work for NatWest seems to show that the agency has got at least some of its mojo back after a period of instability. While Harrisson was unsuccessful in winning the fight to keep Dixons, at least she has achieved her second goal of protecting and helping to nurture the shop’s creativity.
With this in mind, Johnson’s decision to bring her into his own agency seems a sensible one. The turmoil at Anomaly’s London offshoot since its spluttering launch in 2009 is well-documented – Paul Graham, the former managing director of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R who launched the agency in 2009, left in 2013 shortly after Ben Moore joined, apparently in high dudgeon. Its key account, Sony, also left (although arguably because of matters beyond the shop’s control).
The revolving door has been in action yet again as Moore has been shifted into what sounds suspiciously like a rather nebulous global development role. Again, Johnson is honest in his confession that Moore was miscast in his previous position, but at least the decks are now clear for Harrisson to make her mark.
With M&C Saatchi still a work in progress at the time of her leaving, Harrisson’s hands can’t yet be fully ascribed the epithet "safe". But they are industrious – and made of a tougher hide than many suspect. For these reasons, her arrival at Anomaly could be just the solution as it goes through yet another reboot. There are only so many times that an agency can start anew – it won’t just be Johnson who’s hoping the ensemble cast is right this time.
Claire Beale is away