Eighteen months after the ousted Maurice Saatchi’s ‘nothing is
impossible’ valedictory message to his former staffers, his words are
coming true in ways even he could not have imagined.
Who at that time would have believed a British prime minister would last
week join the birthday celebrations of a breakaway agency that didn’t
exist 18 months ago?
And only the most blind optimist would have staked money on M&C Saatchi
going from a standing start to top-20 status in its first year of
But not even Maurice’s achievement can eclipse that of the agency the
Saatchi brothers left behind. Faced with the threat of relegation from
advertising’s top flight, Charlotte Street has hauled itself from the
canvas to come out fighting in a way few believed possible.
The outcome is certainly better than the industry had hoped for and,
many would say, better than it deserves.
The cathartic events of winter 1995 only reinforced what the public -
who regard the Saatchis and advertising as synonymous - and clients have
long believed about advertising: that it is self-obsessed, ego-driven,
spends money it can’t afford and is too easily distracted from its real
job of letting companies be innovative.
But in advertising, as in politics, a week is a long time and the
industry can feel fortunate that the Saatchi affair seems to have
inflicted no permanent damage.
It has even had some positive effects. M&C Saatchi is proving that it is
no mere vehicle for Maurice’s revenge but a mercurial addition to the UK
agency scene. Not least because Maurice himself has come down from his
ivory tower to return to the job he does best.
And Charlotte Street is successfully building on the brothers’ legacy of
determination, aggression and irreverence. Moreover, it is doing so with
a new generation of managers and creatives for whom the Saatchi affair
has provided the chance to shine.