afaqs!

What's up with Saatchi?

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | December 02, 2013
As news about Matt Seddon's departure does the rounds, we take a quick look at the reasons the agency has been in the news of late.

Matt Seddon, former chief executive officer of Saatchi & Saatchi India, who came on board in November 2011 to replace Kamal Basu, is said to have moved on (and out of the country) recently.

Matt Seddon

Soon after his arrival, in an interview with afaqs!, Seddon, who has worked across Saatchi's offices in Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, shared his two-pronged agenda: to beef up Saatchi's ancillary divisions and hire local as well as expat talent; the latter, to inspire the local team and take Saatchi India closer to the agency's global network. According to Saatchi's deputy chairman Richard Hytner, Seddon brought in some much needed 'Saatchi-ness' to India.

Originally a Publicis company, Saatchi now belongs to the Publicis Omnicom Group, a holding company that was born this July. A month after the agency got a new parent, news about another merger surfaced: Law & Kenneth is reportedly all set to join hands with Saatchi in India and become part of the Publicis Omnicom stable. Though Saatchi has the backing, scale and wherewithal of its global network, L&K is deemed to be in better shape than Saatchi, in India, on the management, creative and business fronts. This gives industry observers enough reason to approach the development as one in which an "Indian independent is taking over the reins of the Indian arm of a global agency."

When afaqs! spoke to Praveen Kenneth, co-founder of L&K, about the implications of this news at the time, he chose not to comment on the matter just yet. According to reports, he will be at the helm of the new entity, after the merger with Saatchi. Some experts are quick to attribute Seddon's exit to this, what with the whole there's-only-room-for-one-at-the-top adage.

As reported in a previous story on afaqs!, some of the senior resources that moved out of Saatchi this year include Nisha Singhania, former general manager, Saatchi Mumbai, who launched a creative agency called Infectious with Ramanuj Shastry, former chief creative officer of Saatchi, who stepped down from his role at the agency in December, 2012. After Shastry's exit, the agency adopted a two-ECD structure to fill the void: JWT's Priti Kapur was brought in as executive creative director for Saatchi Delhi. She, along with Ashutosh Karkhanis, executive creative director, Saatchi Mumbai, was made in-charge of the agency's overall creative product.

Rewind to 2012 and Kamal Basu (Saatchi's former CEO who moved to Skoda, another former Saatchi account), Sourabh Mishra (Saatchi's former chief strategy officer) and Kavita Kailas (Saatchi's former vice-president, planning) can be added to the list.

The year 2013 also saw the exit of Jaibeer Ahmad, Saatchi's former vice-president, and Amit Ajwani, former managing director, Saatchi & Saatchi X India -- Publicis Group's global shopper marketing agency that was launched in India in 2010. Among the agency's accounts that initiated a dialogue with other creative agencies in the recent past, are names like Olx.in, CIBIL, Wave Infratech, General Mills and Springwel.

Only time will tell what's in store for Saatchi & Saatchi India in the days ahead. Perhaps 2014 will be a year full of top level hires, sizeable business wins, campaigns that leave 'lovemarks' and other such developments that will help the agency resemble its sibling branches in international markets.

To quote Hytner, "Saatchi's agenda is to remain competitive and entrepreneurial. However, sometimes it works, sometimes it does not."

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