Behind the doors of… Saatchi & Saatchi

Behind the doors of… Saatchi & Saatchi
SHARE
THIS



Turning an agency around is no mean feat. Lucy Clark meets the team at the top of Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney and finds out that nothing is impossible.

Two years ago, Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney was floundering. It lost four major clients – David Jones, Toohey’s New, Hahn and Toyota Yaris – in a matter of months.

It was time for a managerial reshuffle. Former CEO John Foley moved to a regional role with Saatchi & Saatchi in Singapore and Melburnian Michael Rebelo was welcomed back Down Under from the agency’s London office.

Rebelo spent no time looking back and embarked on a mission to bring in new talent – and new clients.He was quick to recruit a top-level team, importing Damon Stapleton as executive creative director and Jason Lonsdale as executive planning director.

“I wanted to bring some new people in with me,” he explains. “Damon was at TBWA South Africa and we knew each other – and everyone knew of him for the awards he was winning for the ‘Trillion Dollar Campaign’. And Jason and I had worked together at Saatchis in London, where he was the European planning director on the T-Mobile account.”

Lonsdale had since left London and joined Taxi in Toronto – but jumped at the chance to work with Rebelo at Saatchis.

Rebelo says:“The most important thing was getting a management team around me that was aligned in what we wanted to.”

The philosophy

The first thing the new leadership trio did was lay down their purpose and values for the agency.

Rebelo outlines: “It was like we were working in a start-up, but with a strong legacy. Day one was a big day. We took the whole agency to Cockatoo Island and spent two days camping and talking.”

The agency’s ‘nothing is impossible’ legacy has remained at the core of the business. “That attitude has been part of the company for 40 years,” says Rebelo. But the new team at the top devised a new mission, purpose and values.

The mission: to be a world class advertising company that creates game changing work and that does not accept the status quo.

“We have all had international careers and operated in some of the most competitive markets in the world,” says Rebelo. “We want to make sure we can compete with the best agencies.”

Stapleton adds: “At the end of the day, you’re judged by the work you put out. Creativity cannot be turned on and off – it has to be part of your DNA. It needs time to establish itself, but we’ve already done some work that’s moving us in the right direction.”

The values: Freedom, Bravery, Imagination and &.

Rebelo explains: “Bravery is critical. When you have a big gold sign by the front door that says ‘nothing is impossible’, you’ve got to have some big doses of bravery.”

And on the value “&”, he explains: “There is a big red ‘&’ sat in our reception for a reason. The culture isn’t about the individual, it’s about the team.”

The work

After establishing the direction for the agency, it was time to get down to the serious business: the work. First up, the trio built a social media capability within the agency, bringing in Suz Koch, from Yahoo7, as social media strategist. “Social is becoming advertising,” says Rebelo. “We haven’t built a social media agency or department – we have built a social media ability.”

The new team took on Saatchi & Saatchi’s existing clients – Toyota, Cadbury, OPSM, P&G and Lexus. But, within a month, started winning more, with Big W quickly added to the roster.

Rebelo recalls: “Big W was a spiritual win. Up until then, the agency had not won much business for two years. For us, it’s all about winning – winning new business, winning awards, winning for our clients and winning staff.”

Stapleton adds: “Winning for an agency is like gravity for the planet – it holds everything together. Winning Big W gave us a bit of momentum and was a great springboard.”

Soon after, Saatchi & Saatchi launched Joyville for Cadbury. Along with the agency’s London office, the Sydney team was behind the launch.

Next up was ‘Cha-Ching’ for Big W, and a string of business wins and big pieces of work followed. They won Carnival Cruises, arranged for the Joyville Steam Train to travel through Sydney, produced an eight-episode series for Toyota Landcruiser with Seven, won Capi, and then continued the Joyville campaign by turning people’s interpretations of ‘joy’ into chocolate sculptures.

St George Bank was another big win, as Saatchi & Saatchi saw off Cummins Ross, BMF, Ogilvy and DDB for the account. The TVC that they made on a Saturday afternoon in Centennial Park for the pitch was used as the launch TVC, playing on the idea that ‘there’s a little dragon inside all of us’.

To cope with the swelling workload, the agency has more than doubled since Rebelo arrived, growing from 50 people to 120. “We have doubled the agency in a year – our revenue has doubled, our margins have more than doubled, and our people have more than doubled,” he says.

The future

Now that the foundations are in place, the focus is on the work. “We have gone through a stage of fixing and rebuilding,” says Rebelo. “The next 18 months needs to be about dreaming and innovating. That’s the really exciting part.

“And we need to have a lot more fun. There are a lot of clients out there we want to work with, and there are a lot of ideas that Damon wants to do. We are just scratching the surface of the potential of the team we’ve got here now.”

“We have given our people a promise that when they look back they had the best time in their careers working for Saatchi Sydney and did the best work of their careers,” concludes Rebelo. “If we can deliver that, then our job is done.”

THE HISTORY 

1970: The global Saatchi & Saatchi agency was founded in London by brothers Maurice and Charles Saatchi

2000: The Saatchi & Saatchi group was acquired by Publicis

December 2011: Michael Rebelo joins Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney as CEO

January 2012: Damon Stapleton joins as ECD, and Jason Lonsdale as executive planning director

February 2012: The agency wins Big W as a new client

May 2012: Saatchi & Saatchi picks up Carnival Cruises’ creative account

November 2012: Soft drink brand Capi awards Saatchi & Saatchi the job of launching it in Australia

May 2013: The new brand campaign, Start Something, for St George Bank launches

Please login with linkedin to comment

Latest News

Verizon Media Academy Ends For 2021 With Youth Charity Pitch-Off
  • Advertising
  • Media

Verizon Media Academy Ends For 2021 With Youth Charity Pitch-Off

Verizon Media’s talent program has come to an end for the third year, closing with a hybrid pitch-off event for Musicians Making A Difference (MMAD). The Verizon Media Academy class of 2021, made up of 44 emerging leaders from across Australia and New Zealand media, advertising and marketing industry, were given just one hour to […]

Industry’s Gamers Unite For UnLtd’s Virtual Rocket League Comp
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

Industry’s Gamers Unite For UnLtd’s Virtual Rocket League Comp

Social purpose organisation UnLtd’s Big Games competition has raised a combined $85,000 for children and young people at risk. Running over five weeks, the competition involved 32 teams from across the advertising, marketing and media industries battling it out virtually for a chance to qualify for the Rocket League final. The tournament culminated in a […]

Sam Worthington And Phoebe Tonkin To Star In New Stan Original Film ‘Transfusion’
  • Media

Sam Worthington And Phoebe Tonkin To Star In New Stan Original Film ‘Transfusion’

Stan has announced that the Stan Original Film Transfusion commenced filming in Sydney earlier this week and will premiere on Stan in 2022. Transfusion is a taut, muscular thriller starring Sam Worthington (Avatar) as Ryan Logan, a former Special Forces operative, who is battling to cope with life after the loss of his wife and is thrust […]

COVID-19 Saw Stock Imagery Return To Harmful Gender Stereotypes
  • Advertising
  • Marketing

COVID-19 Saw Stock Imagery Return To Harmful Gender Stereotypes

According to a decade of data collected by iStock, Australian brands turned to imagery depicting outdated gender stereotypes during the pandemic. Tracking the keyword ‘women’, iStock by Getty Images found that in 2020, ANZ brands and businesses reverted to gender stereotypes. Images of mothers home-schooling were used at almost twice the rate of images of […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Maddison Connaughton Ends Time As Editor Of The Saturday Paper
  • Media

Maddison Connaughton Ends Time As Editor Of The Saturday Paper

Schwartz Media is congratulating Maddison Connaughton on her three years as editor of The Saturday Paper. Connaughton has decided to finish up her editorship this month. “It’s been an honour to edit the paper,” Connaughton said. “The Saturday Paper is one of the brightest voices in Australian media and I have been happy to see […]

Teenage boy wearing headphones works at desk in his bedroom
  • Media

New Research Names Olivia Rodrigo And BTS The Most Popular Study Music

Research from EdBbirdie using Spotify data has identified the most popular songs to study to. After analysing thousands of studying and homework playlists on Spotify, American singer Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘drivers license’ came out as top song to study to. It featured on 48 study playlists, while other top songs included ‘Ophelia’ by The Lumineers, ‘Falling’ […]

Happy woman drinking tea and waving to someone while having video call over desktop PC in the evening at home.
  • Marketing
  • Opinion

Building A Successful Remote Marketing Team

Dayna Stewart is the Business Director – Digital Marketing, Media & Creative Services at The Nudge Group. Here, she discusses the challenges that come with building a successful marketing team when working remotely. Before COVID-19 changed the way businesses work, most marketing teams spent their days together in a meeting room collaborating on the next […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Australia’s The Kid LAROI Joins Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo And More In iHeartRadio Festival Line-Up
  • Media

Australia’s The Kid LAROI Joins Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo And More In iHeartRadio Festival Line-Up

The line-up for the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Festival has been announced as the legendary event returns live in Las Vegas in September. This year, the epic two-day lineup for the iHeartRadio Music Festival main stage will feature performances by Billie Eilish, Cheap Trick, Coldplay, Dua Lipa, Florida Georgia Line, Journey, Khalid, Lil Baby, Maroon 5, Nelly, […]

Shop! ANZ Calls On Industry To Participate In ANZ Shopper And Retail Marketing Industry Survey
  • Marketing

Shop! ANZ Calls On Industry To Participate In ANZ Shopper And Retail Marketing Industry Survey

Shop! ANZ is calling on shopper and retail marketing professionals from all retail related disciplines to participate in the first ANZ Shopper and Retail Marketing Industry Survey in four years. This important research provides a guide of where the retail marketing industry in Australia and New Zealand has come from and what is anticipated to […]