Former Saatchi Exec Takes Charge of Fallon North America

Chris Foster Aims to Put Minneapolis Agency Back on Track

By Published on .

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Fallon North America today named Saatchi & Saatchi executive Chris Foster as its new CEO.
Chris Foster
Chris Foster

Mr. Foster, 43, who for the last three and a half years was exec VP-global equity director for Procter & Gamble's home-care portfolio of accounts at Publicis Groupe sibling Saatchi, said his top priority is restoring new-business growth at the storied Minneapolis creative agency, which has fallen on hard times of late.

Fallon earlier this month lost in the final round of Microsoft's creative review, where it was bested by MDC's Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, and last year was devastated by a final-round loss in the chase for Volvo's ad duties, which went to Havas' Arnold. As it was coming up short in those reviews, high-profile accounts such as Citigroup and United Airlines were leaving the agency.

His dream job
But Mr. Foster said the chance to lead Fallon through its rough patch -- and leaving fast-growing Saatchi behind -- was too good an opportunity to pass up. "This is basically my dream job," he said. "I grew up in awe of what Fallon could achieve."

Asked what previous Fallon work awed him, he cited the agency's "Dick" campaign for Miller Lite in the late 1990s, as well as the shop's acclaimed online BMW Films project from earlier this decade. The agency currently has no U.S. auto or beer accounts.

The move dovetails with parent company Publicis' decision last summer to place Fallon and Saatchi under a new mini-holding company called SSF Group, led by Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts. The move shifted Fallon's struggling Minneapolis office under the wing of Saatchi, which lent it resources during the Microsoft pitch, and subordinated Saatchi's struggling London unit to Fallon's thriving office there.

Looking to Gamble?
At the time, speculation abounded that the restructuring could be a play to direct some P&G business toward Fallon, and Mr. Foster's appointment today does little to dispel the idea. "If they'd consider us, we'd love to be of service," Mr. Foster said.

In his nine-plus years at Saatchi, Mr. Foster also worked on General Mills, Dannon, Pillsbury and Johnson & Johnson. Before joining Saatchi, the Canadian-born Mr. Foster worked on north-of-the-border outposts of Leo Burnett, FCB and Bozell.

In a statement, Mr. Roberts said, "Chris Foster has been an inspirational leader at Saatchi & Saatchi, leading a global team of 400 people and taking the cornerstone laundry category to new levels of brand leadership, a Grand Prix for Tide plus seven Lions in the Laundry category at the 2007 Cannes Advertising Festival, and significant new business growth. He is strategic, creative and has executive acumen -- a perfect combination."

Added Fallon founder Pat Fallon, who shifted into an emeritus role as part of the SSF Group transition: "He will see to it that we regain our rightful place of prominence and ensure we are at the forefront of creativity, client satisfaction, brand building and business success."

The post of CEO is new at Fallon North America.
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