Unleash the ugly
Saatchi's outspoken CEO Kevin Roberts tells Austyn Allison from Communicate that the time for analysis is over. Advertising is going to get ugly.
July 22, 2009 8:01 by Austyn Allison
Saatchi & Saatchi global CEO Kevin Roberts was back in town recently to check up on the new regional management at the agency. A year after he created controversy across the Middle East by calling the region’s creative output “awful,” and the quality of work “crap,” Roberts’ agency is hoping to reinvent itself with a restructure.
Saatchi Dubai has lost CEO Steve Anastasiadis and chief creative director Ed Jones. It now has a new regional CEO in Elias Ashkar, who will oversee all Saatchi offices in the region. Like Roberts, Ashkar worked at Procter & Gamble and Pepsi, and the two are old friends. Danny Higgins is the new regional chief creative director, and Joseph Atallah has become the agency’s first regional chief strategic officer.
We sidestepped (most) management issues, though, and began by asking Roberts whether he had revised his opinion of the region’s advertising industry since the start of last summer.
When you were here last year, you said creativity in the Middle East hasn’t moved much beyond the Eighties. How does it look now?
I think the Lynx was very close to a mortal blow for creativity in this region, and if we have escaped by the skin of our teeth, major action needs to be taken and I would not be giving the agency [FP7 Doha] a pass. I understand that Lynx has said all is forgiven, take action internally and come back next year. I would have red-carded them, not yellow-carded them.
It is corruption. I found it unethical, corrupt, inexcusable, unjustifiable, and shameful. I think of great agencies like Leo Burnett here in the Middle East (who I know really well), and to see them compete in the show and be swamped by this kind of thing, I find really distasteful. It’s criminal really. The punishment for this should be much stronger than it has been so far.