Five Questions With Saatchi & Saatchi's New Global President

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Magnus Djaba
Magnus Djaba Credit: Saatchi & Saatchi

Magnus Djaba was named global president of Saatchi & Saatchi after global CEO Robert Senior announced his departure earlier this month. Mr. Djaba has just overseen the move of the network's London headquarters from Charlotte Street – where Saatchi's famous "Nothing is Impossible" slogan had been carved into the stone steps for 40 years – to shiny new offices on Chancery Lane in London's legal district.

The same slogan has been set into the stone walls of the new building, but apart from that, it's all change. Mr. Djaba describes himself as "determined" in the face of a new global role, a new HQ – and a new baby due in March.

Mr. Djaba, who will also keep his previous post as chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi London, has already had some good news. Last week, Saatchi beat incumbent JWT to become lead agency on HSBC's global brand advertising account after Saatchi London led a Publicis Communications pitch. The business, with an integrated team from different Publicis Groupe agencies, will be run out of Saatchi's new London HQ.

How is global president different to your predecessor Robert Senior's role of global CEO?

With a global job, you can have a 'to do' list that you never get to the end of, but I'm not managing the P&L [in the U.K.], which makes a huge difference. Justin [Billingsley, global chief operating officer] is now in charge of that. My objectives are about clients, people, creative work, capabilities and brand stewardship. The most important thing for me is that I am useful and instrumental.

You are British and based in London. How are your global credentials?

I honestly don't know what British means. I don't look like a typical British person. I have family in Africa, family in the U.S., and close ties in Australia. I have been on the global leadership team for a while and I've regularly travelled – particularly to the U.S. – working on global clients like HSBC, Visa and Mondelez. When I was at Fallon I visited Minneapolis regularly. I have lots of multinational experience and I will go where I need to be. I genuinely believe the world is becoming a smaller place and I find that exciting.

What are your priorities in the U.S?

As with all our markets, my priorities will be clients, new business, and our brand. The U.S. is our biggest market, and as such is incredibly important to the success of the network. I'm happy to say that we have a number of strong offices there. The West Coast is a true example of an integrated offering, with media, creativity and technology working together -- a model that I will be looking to take learnings from for all our key offices. But we also have [U.S. Hispanic shop] Conill, and of course New York, where we've seen some great work recently for Walmart. It's true to say that I'm excited about the potential in the U.S. as well as the performance.

What did you learn from Robert Senior?

It's about people. People matter. You've got to look after them. I put them first and foremost. Data and technology are fundamental for creativity, but the people who use it are the most important thing. I've worked with Robert for 14 years and this isn't the first time I've stepped into his shoes – I also did it at Fallon, at Saatchi & Saatchi London, and at the Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon Group.

Was there a turning point in your career?

Joining the Fallon family [from Ogilvy & Mather]. Like lots of people, I was brought up on one way of doing things. At Fallon we understand that there are many ways to get to the answer. It's critical today, when flux is the norm and we don't live in a predictable world. We have to adapt at speed, sometimes while the plane is in flight. I'm very clear we have to be an output-focused organization. It's critical to adapt for our clients and the contexts and challenges they have.

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