Agency A-List: Saatchi & Saatchi

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Mary Baglivo
  • "Lovemarks" lovefest
  • New-biz juggernaut
  • Roberts' strong bench
  • JC Penney transforms
  • Wendy's a challenge
Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi has come a long way, transforming itself from a parking lot for package-goods accounts to a place where brands are transformed.

Wendy's, Miller Brewing and JC Penney are a few of the big names that have warmed to Saatchi Worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts' "Lovemarks" philosophy. Say what you will about it as a marketing approach, it's helped make Saatchi a new-business juggernaut, even if not every execution has been flawless. While JC Penney is witnessing the beginning of a transformation from a tattered retail player to something more premium, Wendy's weird red-wig campaign freaked the fast feeder's founding family and hasn't done much for sales. But you could say ups and downs are the price to pay for pushing brands into new places, something Saatchi -- especially for a company with that consumer-goods heritage -- has been better at than its rivals on the ever-more-chaotic global-agency-network scene. It presents probably the best case that those multinational behemoths can play with the leaner, meaner shops like Crispin when it comes to producing work that truly stands -- provided there's the right leadership and creative firepower.

Poaching talent
Leadership Saatchi has in spades. Mr. Roberts has emerged as one of the most intriguing agency network CEOs, and he has a strong exec in New York in CEO Mary Baglivo. Tony Granger's November-announced departure for WPP Group's Y&R left a brief question mark over Saatchi's creative direction, given he was widely credited with helping to boost its award-show performance. But last week's news that the agency managed to poach top creative Gerry Graf from TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, to replace Mr. Granger erased those doubts, signaling that Saatchi's recent revival allowed it to be a magnet for the cream of the current creative crop.

The biggest hurdle for Saatchi will be keeping Wendy's International, which fired McCann Erickson Worldwide and moved its $200 million account to Saatchi early in 2007 without a review. Not only have the wigged-out ads offended the woman who gave the company its name, but Chief Marketing Officer Ian Rowden left Wendy's for personal reasons. The ads' inability to ring registers -- Wendy's suffered its first quarter of same-store sales declines in nearly two years -- has also fueled speculation that the fast feeder would hand off more work to MDC Partners' Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners.

JC Penney, on the other hand, saw comp-sales increases in the single digits and witnessed the beginnings of brand revitalization through its elegant "Every Day Matters" campaign. The effort features ads that spark emotion by telling stories centered on young customers.

There was organic growth in 2007, too. Saatchi solidified its Novartis relationship by no small measure, adding $120 million in billings from Ciba Vision, Lamisil and Fenistil brands. And while Saatchi lost Procter & Gamble Co.'s $30 million Pur account, the agency still expanded its imprint on the all-important P&G roster with organic growth on Crest, Iams, Olay and Scope. Saatchi also brought home the marketing monster's first best-of-show Grand Prix at the Cannes for a series of print ads for Tide Ultra.

Rounding out the new-business wins was a tourism account -- fittingly, New York state's "I Love New York" picked Lovemarks.
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