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JEARY HITS NEW YORK RUNNING BUT SOME SAATCHI STAFFERS IN SAN FRANCISCO STILL BITTER

By Published on .

NEW YORK-When Saatchi & Saatchi New York CEO Michael Jeary took 40 agency staffers to a Floral Park, N.J., conference center for a come-to-Jesus meeting, the message was clear: Get religion or get out.

"Our attention slipped," Mr. Jeary said in an interview with Advertising Age. The agency "got self-centered with downsizing and slipping margins."

Newly charged with awakening Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising's slumbering flagship office here, Mr. Jeary is on a mission to reorganize the office and unify an amalgam of cultures that have clashed since Saatchi crashed the U.S. ad scene in the 1980s. The dissolution of these cultures and negative attitudes were topics of the July revival.

"Jeary told the agency he'll be the first to get off the horse if he's not right for the job," said one executive who attended the summer meeting. But he's already off to a running start.

Mr. Jeary, 47, who had been president-CEO of Saatchi's San Francisco office, was quick to meet New York staffers, many bewildered by a series of rapid-fire top management changes and who say he also sent slick agencywide memos to update and rally the troops.

Although midlevel staffers complain overzealous communication from the top has since dwindled-the agency still hasn't internally communicated that it didn't score the U.S. Postal Service account-Mr. Jeary understandably could be preoccupied.

He has dispatched agency evaluations to clients who, he said, request more "responsiveness, on-time performance, high-level creativity and continuity in terms of people on accounts," while praising Saatchi for "pro-activity, creativity, flexibility and meeting costs."

Mr. Jeary has also helped the agency, which bills an estimated $1.4 billion in New York, slip into more account pitches than in recent memory. Winning Citibank credit card, Arizona Iced Tea, Glidden paints or a new product from Johnson & Johnson-worth a combined $16 million to $18 million-would easily offset its loss of Paddington Corp. and Sara Lee Corp.'s Just My Size pantyhose accounts.

On top of all that, Mr. Jeary is reorganizing client groups around account handlers, strategists and media executives.

The moves are reminiscent of Mr. Jeary's 21/2-year tenure as head of Saatchi's San Francisco office.

Unfortunately, the two accounts snared by that office were rather small and insiders there are still bitter that Mr. Jeary bolted for the New York office early this summer during the crucial $35 million Pacific Bell pitch, which it didn't win.

Still, Mr. Jeary's call back to New York, made by Saatchi North American CEO Bill Muirhead, was one he couldn't ignore. There will be grander things in store if he succeeds.

"When I got this job, I received a letter saying, `It's great when nice guys finish first,"' Mr. Jeary said. "In a lot of ways I'm not a nice guy. There's a job to be done."

Alice Z. Cuneo in San Francisco contributed to this story.

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