After a difficult two-and-a-half years for M&C Saatchi, its plc parent responded in January 2016 by selling 30 per cent of the London ad agency to its management in an attempt to inspire entrepreneurialism at the Golden Square offices.
The omens, at least, are good. Research from Kingston Smith has since shown that agencies run by stakeholders comfortably outperform those where management have no skin in the game.
M&C Saatchi had hired Justin Tindall, the executive creative director at Leo Burnett, as its chief creative officer as 2015 came to a close. This was despite the shop insisting that it would instead have four empowered creative partners when splitting with Elspeth Lynn 11 months earlier.
The democratic revolution was evidently not to be. The newly promoted Tom Firth and Gabrielle Bell, and the recently re-engaged Tim Duffy, join Tindall in the top team.
But back to 2015. If you look over the clients M&C Saatchi picked up last year, they make a surprisingly decent list. Getting on the E.ON roster, winning Royal Mail and snaring Public Health England’s anti-smoking work were highlights. Other wins included Sofa.com, Shelter and Unilever’s Toni & Guy.
The Toni & Guy coup came after M&C Saatchi successfully defended its place on the FMCG giant’s global digital roster. But none of the wins was as significant as the impending loss of Transport for London, which parted with the agency after 15 years.
M&C Saatchi’s most high-profile work came from its renewed relationship with the Tories. The "pocket Miliband" ad featuring the erstwhile Labour leader in Alex Salmond’s pocket was classic M&C Saatchi. The rest of the agency’s year wasn’t.
How the agency rates itself: 6
"Our 20th year was marked by the inevitable highs and lows of a transitional period. Despite 15 years of award-winning work, losing Transport for London still hurt, but a new management team, 55 per cent pitch-win record, 16 new clients and an increase in revenue helped sweeten this bitter pill. An election-deciding campaign for the Conservatives brought pride to Golden Square and the growing conviction that if we can change the course of political history, we can do anything."
|Type of agency||Creative|
|Company ownership||M&C Saatchi|
|Nielsen billings 2015||£87m|
|Nielsen billings 2014||£121m|
|Declared income||£27.4m (2014)|
|Total accounts at year end||72|
|Accounts won||16 (biggest: Royal Mail)|
|Accounts lost||5 (biggest: Doddle)|
|Number of staff||265 (-8%)|
|Women in senior management||15%|
|BAME staff in senior management||15%|
|Key personnel||Tim Duffy, chairman
Tom Bazeley, chief executive
Justin Tindall, chief creative officer
Gabrielle Bell, chief strategy officer
Tom Firth, managing director
Score key: 9 Outstanding 8 Excellent 7 Good 6 Satisfactory 5 Adequate 4 Below average 3 Poor 2 A year to forget 1 Survival in question
Footnote: *indicates where agencies claim the corporate governance constraints of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.