We should find time to applaud the Saatchis for a marriage that lasted nearly a quarter of a century and featured some of the most iconic ad campaigns of our time. The Saatchi & Saatchi creative genius Paul Arden writes in his excellent book, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be, that “getting fired can be a positive career move”. Perhaps the execs at M&C Saatchi might take some solace from this thought after they lost the BA advertising account to BBH. Arden goes on to say that if you get fired the job was not right for you anyway.
Today’s BA, battered by falling share prices in the wake of 9/11, is a very different beast from the one that could waste £90m on a universally derided (and swiftly reversed) rebranding that included axing the national flag from its tailfins.
In the bitchy world of ad land the cackling backbites will be well aimed. But consider the following: the Saatchis have kept this account for nearly a quarter of a century. Not bad if you think how much profit has been plundered from the reputed £60m worldwide ad account.
It’s been a long marriage and there was a rocky patch and a nasty pong surrounding the last pitch for the BA account 10 years ago when the Saatchis were ousted from their company in a boardroom coup.
The then BA chief executive, Bob Ayling, was just about to appoint BBH to the account. Despite the seductive attentions of a rival ad company, BA left their love unrequited and went back into the arms of Maurice and Charles – due to an eleventh hour intervention by the BA chairman, Colin Marshall, who overruled Ayling and insisted the Saatchis’ new agency be given the business.
Cost the keyword
But times are a-changin’ and with the new chief exec, Willie Walsh, coming in from Aer Lingus to cut costs at BA it’s no wonder the procurement execs are sharpening their pencils to see what they can chisel away from the budget.
In a McKinsey-driven world where “everything can be measured and what gets measured gets managed”, cost is the key word here. Can BA continue to be the key creative showcase it once was? Will it allow great creative work to be executed? Advertising effectiveness is dependent on creative freedom, and creative freedom is dependent on money in a business where the biggest client is always the same – “expenses”.
Once you dissect the spin and bluster emanating from BBH, you’re left thinking about how well the Saatchis have done out of BA – and how well BA have done out of the Saatchis.
And, like every other big agency, they had been stalking BA for the past 15 years. So perhaps, amid our congratulations to them for what is nevertheless an impressive coup, we should find time to applaud the Saatchis for a marriage that lasted nearly a quarter of a century and featured some of the most iconic ad campaigns of our time.
And perhaps the creatives at BBH will remember that they have a lot to live up to.
They may have lost their top advertising account when BA deserted them yesterday, but it took the Saatchi brothers less than 24 hours to bounce back today with a brilliantly audacious stunt.
A double-page spread in the Times lists the greatest hits of their 20-plus years at the top – and ends with the brilliant punch line: “Now taking new airline bookings.”
If you are feeling the sucker punch, stand up and fight. I am sure there will be tearful redundancies at the Soho Square offices, but expect the top Saatchi execs to exercise every creative muscle to replace the stolen family silver.