Former Saatchi Execs Start Firm to Clean Up CPG Mess

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Credit: Cleanup on Aisle 7

In a year when Unilever thwarted an unsolicited takeover bid and Procter & Gamble Co. fended off (in preliminary results) an activist investor seeking a board seat, it's clear the packaged-goods industry is a mess. Now, two longtime P&G agency hands have offered to help clean it up.

Cliff Francis and Vaughan Emsley, who headed, respectively, creative strategy and client service on the global P&G account at Saatchi & Saatchi from 2000 to 2015, have launched Cleanup on Aisle 7, a consultancy aimed at quick strategic and creative fixes for CPG players.

Emsley comes directly from heading strategy and client service at creative crowdsourcing shop Tongal, which he joined last year. He says he made the move to join his old friend and colleague Francis, now free from Saatchi contractual restrictions. They aren't looking to displace or replace agencies, though Emsley says he may make referrals, including to Tongal, when clients want.

"We see ourselves working with clients who don't want to change their rosters," Emsley says.

"Or can't," Francis adds, "because it's too inconvenient given the emergency they have. In the end, it could be helpful to agencies because we can solve a problem they can't, and then they can get the relationship back on track." The increasing pressure on CPG companies, evidenced by Unilever and P&G this year, are evidence the industry needs help fixing problems faster, Francis says.

Vaughan Emsley (l.) and Cliff Francis
Vaughan Emsley (l.) and Cliff Francis Credit: Cleanup on Aisle 7

The name came to Francis during his Saatchi days, when he heard those exact words, "Cleanup on Aisle 7," while standing in line at CVS. He realized it was not unlike the daily work he was doing with brands.The two, who have one yet-unnamed client, are formally launching their firm with a booth at the P&G Alumni Network in Cincinnati this week, reconnecting with marketers they knew who've often moved to other CPG posts.

"We'll work with clients who've hit a brick wall and are out of time," Emsley says. "We offer a two-to-five-day solution to get to an answer. … After all the years we've worked on the business, we believe nine times out of 10, the client has the answer. They just can't see it."

Indeed, one of their guiding principles is "surprising with the obvious," or finding competitive edges hiding in plain sight for brands, says Emsley. Another tenet: "Relevance is the new superiority," which he says is the idea that brands are more likely to succeed by showing how they fit in people's lives than trying to demonstrate superior performance.

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