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At Saatchi & Saatchi, the self-described hottest ideas shop on the planet, coming up with ideas starts in the elevator. The walls of the all-black express cube that ascends to the 16th floor of the New York office are covered with hundreds of brief exhortations, like "Leap then look" and "Thirst for change."

Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts, a former marketer who's also a sports-mad biz school professor, throws in plenty of ideas of his own inspiration: brands as Lovemarks; Permanently Infatuated Clients, also known as PICs; and Peak Performance Organizations.

The payoff in 2002 was more than $1.2 billion in net new business-the highest tally of any global agency network in a tough year-including $600 million from PICs Procter & Gamble Co. and General Mills. Saatchi also won more creative awards worldwide last year than any network except Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, according to the Gunn Report, a ranking of creative show awards.

Based on its new-business and creative record, and initiatives like the new P&G role for Mr. Roberts within Saatchi parent Publicis Groupe, Saatchi & Saatchi is Advertising Age's Global Agency Network for 2002.

IDEAS THAT CHANGE BRANDS

"Their leadership is industry leading," says Jim Stengel, P&G's global marketing officer. "If you go visit Kevin's office in New York, or really any [Saatchi] offices all over the world, they have ideas plastered all over. He really wants his people not to be thinking about any specific medium or area-he just wants them to bring us ideas that really will change brands for the benefit of consumers."

With the closing of D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and the reassigning of its P&G brands, Saatchi picked up two of the biggest prizes, Crest toothpaste and Folgers coffee. Saatchi now handles six of P&G's dozen billion-dollar global brands. That includes the three biggest-Pampers, Tide and Ariel-and the two fastest-growing brands, Crest and Iams. Two of Saatchi's other P&G brands, Olay on a global basis and Head & Shoulders in the U.S., are likely to join the $1 billion club in two years, P&G executives say. Since P&G's agency compensation is based on brand sales, Saatchi has a particularly valuable portfolio.

"They're playing with our biggest and most important brands," Mr. Stengel says.

Mr. Roberts, once a P&G executive himself, made it clear when he took over the faltering Saatchi network five years ago that he would focus on building its biggest clients, P&G and Toyota Motor Corp. for the Avensis model. Now he will act as "brand navigator" overseeing all the P&G brands within Publicis-at Saatchi, Publicis Worldwide, Leo Burnett Worldwide and Kaplan Thaler Group.

Mr. Roberts is a British-born New Zealand citizen who works one week a month from Saatchi's office in Auckland, where he owns a sports bar. (He also has Web sites, saatchikevin.com and lovemarks.com.) Mr. Roberts says he leads through inspiration rather than management. "We don't have committees," he says. "We talk about progress against our dreams."

Saatchi has managed to become the biggest network for P&G, which accounts for 8% of the agency's revenue, while keeping a high creative profile. Mr. Roberts is proud that Saatchi was the most-awarded network at the 2002 International Advertising Festival in Cannes, where 12 Saatchi agencies won Lions, though he wants it to be 20. And Saatchi's London office was named Agency of the Year in Cannes for winning the most Lions, including the print Grand Prix for Club 18-30 Holidays' risque ads.

"Our challenge is to be in the top three at Cannes every year," Mr. Roberts says. "The [advertising] Oscars are Cannes. It lets us hire the best creative talent in the world."

PROMOTING CREATIVE STARS

One of the best creative talents, David Droga, Saatchi's executive creative director in the U.K., is moving to a new role early this year as worldwide creative director for the Publicis Worldwide network, after spending three years restoring the London agency to a creative powerhouse (see The Player on Page 44).

Mr. Roberts credits F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi in Sao Paulo, run by Brazilian creative superstar Fabio Fernandes, with the best detergent advertising of the year. In the spot titled "Ideal Husbands," a housewife discovers that Ariel laundry detergent is really composed of countless tiny ideal husbands who scrub her clothes. P&G's Mr. Stengel says Cliff Francis, Saatchi's worldwide creative director for P&G, summed up the agency well by saying, "We look for the surprising obvious, things that are so obvious to our consumers but no one has really talked about in a relevant way that can really propel a brand."

Mr. Stengel cites the Pampers Baby Stages of Development line extension, built around parents' concern for their babies' development and how Pampers can play a role in that. Saatchi's insight, and the basis for a global ad campaign that's building sales, was that by seeing the world through a baby's eyes, you see how to make it better. Each ad tells a child's story at different ages up to toddler.

During 2002, Saatchi began working for General Mills in 25% more markets, handling cereal business in more than 40 countries. Saatchi also picked up the $50 million General Mills-owned Pillsbury International business, followed by the $175 million Pillsbury U.S. account. In addition to its Toyota global wins, in the U.S. Saatchi took an innovative approach to the Latino market last year by essentially merging its longtime Hispanic agency, Conill Advertising, into its Latin American network Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi. Conill moved its headquarters from New York to Miami and is tapping into the Latin expertise of Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi's operation there.

Saatchi's biggest weakness is that its New York office isn't as strong as its rivals or the best Saatchi agencies globally. New York isn't up to the standards of the peak performance organizations that Mr. Roberts wrote about in his 2000 book "Peak Performance," a business-lesson study of how the world's top sports organizations, from the New York Yankees to New Zealand's rugby team, keep winning and surpassing their own best performances.

Compared with the rest of the network, New York garners few creative awards, though Mr. Roberts says the office does well in effectiveness. Elsewhere in the U.S., Saatchi's Los Angeles area office in Torrance, Calif., created one of the year's most-awarded commercials, in which a dog chases a parked Toyota Celica because the car looks so fast.

U.S. management, led by eight managing partners with no president or CEO, has been unwieldy. The number of partners has dwindled to five or six, and Mr. Roberts plans to cut the management team further in 2003.

Mr. Roberts says the additional P&G and General Mills business won in 2002 will add 40% to the New York office's billings, making it the biggest the New York shop has ever been. And he says he still sees enormous potential for new business from giant clients like P&G.

"This is my last job," says Mr. Roberts, who is 53. "But I'll be here for a long time."

contributing: jack neff

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