M&C Saatchi sees opportunities on an international level


  • Business
  • Saturday, 12 Sep 2009

WHEN M&C Saatchi was formed in 1995, the Saatchi brothers decided to employ an opposite strategy to that of their former advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi.

M&C Saatchi would not be on a buying spree; instead, it would set up its own offices from scratch, creating an entrepreneurial, organic start-up culture.

The people running the agency’s offices have been given partial ownership, with 20% to 40% stakes, so they would be driven to grow their business organically.

But they also focus more on their respective markets, so the offices are basically run on a national basis. That can be a problem, especially when it comes to taking advantage of international opportunities.

Moray MacLennan, who helped found M&C Saatchi back in 1995, has begun the process to turn the offices into more of a global network.

MacLennan became worldwide chief executive officer in January, a position that had never existed before at M&C Saatchi.

Speaking to StarBizWeek in Kuala Lumpur, he says: “Despite the fact that we have this nice federation of entrepreneurs who know and like each other and often work together, there’s a real opportunity of really getting on the radar for international new business, because we’re not at the moment.”

“It’s fair to say, we’ve been relatively bad at marketing ourselves as a global force,” MacLennan says, pointing to M&C Saatchi’s small number of offices worldwide. It currently has 19 offices in 14 countries, nine of which are in Asia-Pacific.

“We’ll soon have 20 offices – we never want 120; we don’t think you need 120. In the modern era with modern technology, you don’t need the overhead, the bureaucracy,” MacLennan says.

“We think the dinosaur agencies have 120. I think it’s difficult for the big networks now because of the pace of change with new technology, and the recession has accelerated that change. They’re like oil tankers; it takes a long time to turn an oil tanker. So I like to think we’re a smaller network of 20 different agencies around the world that can be more fleet of foot, quicker and more responsive.”

To him, being quicker is important. “In the old days, an agency would never promise speed; it always said, ‘We’re a creative industry, we take our time. It’s a craft. We need to get it right.’ Those days are gone,” he says.

“I think you need to be fast and accurate; you’ll be efficient. So that’s what I’m aiming to try and create this network and bring this network together to create something which is quick, accurate and efficient across all the marketing disciplines – digital, online and interactive, as well as the traditional medium, but also being able to offer PR, sports sponsorship and design, because that’s what I think the clients want now.”

On how to improve efficiency, he says it wants to get some basic infrastructure in place. “I just want to make sure we have some technology in place that allow us to talk quickly – I’m talking about basic stuff like video conferencing, I’m talking Internet that actually works. So linking us up in the most modern way possible is important.

“To be absolutely sure that everyone knows what the story is of our network. Because we never really marketed ourselves as an international network aggressively, we don’t have a lot of promotional materials (like brochures, CDs and DVDs) actually. So we need to have everything in place in terms of making ourselves known – if you like, advertising ourselves.”

He says M&C Saatchi needs to make sure that every office around the world is capable of delivering similar services.

On the agency’s mantra of Brutal Simplicity of Thought, MacLennan says the most important thing in communication is to simplify, and it’s also the most difficult.

“With the current changes, it’s becoming a necessity, because the world is becoming more complicated – quite dramatically. In the last two or three years, and I think in the next five years, there will be more change in our industry than it has been ever in the last thousand years with all the interactive media. I think it’s just a huge revolution, and it’s also a bit complicated.

“There are different schools of thought. Our view is that in this new world, more than ever it’s important to simplify. The most successful and most enduring ideas will be the simplest.

“But the temptation to complicate will be there like it’s never before. There are so many things to do, so many audiences to cover in different ways, and different people selling you different communication tools and points of view and specialisms, and the opportunity for a brand to fragment because of that is tremendous. There are lots of very compelling arguments as to why you should become more diverse, more complicated than ever before,” he says.

“My argument is, the world-changing ideas – the ideas that have the most effect – have been the most concentrated. So it’s simple but powerful. If you think back to your own history in Malaysia through philosophy through the history of the world, through commerce, that has always been true.”

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