Saatchi & Saatchi hires Chris Kay as CEO

New chief executive has previously worked with Magnus Djaba and Guillermo Vega.

Chris Kay: joining Saatchi & Saatchi as CEO
Chris Kay: joining Saatchi & Saatchi as CEO

Saatchi & Saatchi London has appointed Chris Kay, global partner and Asia Pacific CEO at 72andSunny, as its chief executive, replacing Sam Hawkey, who has been poached by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.

As CEO, Kay will report to Magnus Djaba, global president of Saatchi & Saatchi and CEO of Publicis Groupe UK’s creative practice. The appointment reunites Kay and Djaba, who previously worked together at Fallon in the mid-noughties.

Chairman and chief strategy officer Richard Huntington, managing director Sarah Jenkins and chief creative officer Guillermo Vega will report to Kay and, as a team, they will lead the 279-strong agency, working with brands including EE, BT, Direct Line and Britvic.

Kay has also worked with Vega, who is a former executive creative director at 72andSunny New York.

Having been at MDC Partners agency 72andSunny from January 2012, Kay was managing director of its Los Angeles office before being made partner and then moving to Sydney to set up its Asia-Pacific operation in May 2017.

Kay will relocate from Australia to the UK and start his new role on 1 November.

After starting his career at TBWA, Kay joined Fallon London in 2002 and ran accounts including Sony and Cadbury. As part of Happen, Fallon’s joint venture with Naked, he worked on the Tate Tracks campaign, which won a gold Integrated Lion at Cannes in 2007.

Djaba said: “At Saatchi, we have to be creative entrepreneurs, driven by a restlessness to improve ourselves, to find new and diverse answers, to find out how good we can be. 

“I’ve known Chris for almost two decades and that is what he does. I’m excited to see how he changes us for the better and I hope, like all great relationships, we can do the same for him.”

Burnley-born Kay left Fallon in 2008 to be head of marketing at Manchester City Football Club after its takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group. After two years he moved to the Australian agency BMF Advertising as managing partner.

Hawkey, who was promoted to CEO last year, is leaving Saatchi & Saatchi London to become chief executive of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO later this year.

Djaba added: “I was once told talent is something you don’t own, you borrow. So, you must nurture it and when the time comes for it to go, you must ensure you return it in a better place than when you received it. I feel we have done that with Sam. I’m proud and excited for him to take his next step.”

Saatchi & Saatchi marked its 50th anniversary last year and performed strongly during the pandemic, rising to sixth from eighth by Nielsen billings in Campaign’s School Reports.

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