‘A PLAN FROM THE START – WORLD DOM­I­NA­TION’

Mau­rice Saatchi and Mo­ray MacLennan look back.

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MAU­RICE: Yes, I’m very happy to start at that point. I left LSE with my first-class hon­ours de­gree in eco­nomics. They did say to me that I pos­sessed what they called “ef­fort­less su­pe­ri­or­ity”, and that has al­ways worked very well for me, Mo­ray – with ev­ery­one ex­cept you. In your case, I get no def­er­ence. MO­RAY: That’s be­cause I know you. Your first job was at Hay­mar­ket?

MAU­RICE: Yes, I was given a cup­board and a ti­tle that was some­thing like re­search as­sis­tant to the chair­man, who was then Michael He­sel­tine. I was noth­ing, a no­body. The job he gave me was to re­search po­ten­tial ac­qui­si­tions. Michael’s method, which I later copied, was to mass-mail busi­ness pub­li­ca­tions. It al­ways started with the same open­ing: “I’m sure this will be the last thing on your mind, but I won­der if you would be at all in­ter­ested in sell­ing your com­pany.”

I re­mem­ber say­ing to Michael: “Shouldn’t we do some re­search be­fore we do the mail­ing to 100 pub­li­ca­tions?” He said: “No, that would be a waste of time. Let’s just re­search the ones that say yes.”

One of them was called World Press News. It was an A4 pub­li­ca­tion and at the time was the lead­ing busi­ness mag­a­zine for the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try, and led di­rectly to the launch of Cam­paign.

MO­RAY: You are now tak­ing credit for in­vent­ing Cam­paign?

MAU­RICE: Yes, ob­vi­ously. I was only in Hay­mar­ket for two years. As you con­stantly point out, Mo­ray, un­like me, who has worked for an­other com­pany, you have never worked for any­one other than Saatchi. You have more author­ity to speak on the sub­ject of Saatchi than I do.

MO­RAY: True. Now let’s talk Saatchi. You were a child, in your early twen­ties, when Saatchi & Saatchi started. Did you have a plan, or did you make it up as you went along?

MAU­RICE: There was a plan from the very start – world dom­i­na­tion. How can you have a plan for world dom­i­na­tion, you may ask, when you

DO MAU­RICE SAATCHI: I RE­ALLY HAVE TO DO THIS? YES MO­RAY MACLENNAN: YOU DO. WHY? MAU­RICE: I RE­ALLY DON’T WANT TO. BE­CAUSE MO­RAY: YOU’RE A SELF­ISH, SELF­OB­SESSED, EGO­CEN­TRIC NAR­CIS­SIST, SO WILL EN­JOY IT. IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU. OK, MAU­RICE: IF I MUST. SHALL WE GET STARTED? WE MO­RAY: AL­READY HAVE. WE’RE RECORD­ING.

are only 11 peo­ple in Golden Square? I have ab­so­lutely no idea. But that was def­i­nitely the plan. I was the “boy won­der”, as far as I was con­cerned. When I ar­rived you’d un­fold the ban­ners, sound the trum­pets; when I walked into a room all would rise. That’s what I thought. MO­RAY: So is that the mes­sage, self-delu­sion?

MAU­RICE: In your jour­ney through life you are go­ing to come across two kinds of peo­ple, and you will see these peo­ple in ac­tion when you come to the in­evitable brick walls across your path. One kind of per­son will say: “It’s too high, turn back.” The other will say: “Let’s climb over it.” This is the dif­fer­ence be­tween those who make great changes and have an ef­fect on the world, and those who don’t.

If you are lucky enough to meet the right peo­ple, you will do very well. It’s im­pos­si­ble to over­es­ti­mate the im­por­tance of this. We were a group of peo­ple who had the right ap­proach to the brick wall.

MO­RAY: A high­light of that time must have been in 1983, when you met me. I’m sure you re­mem­ber it well.

MAU­RICE: It’s burned into my me­mory. MO­RAY: You have no rec­ol­lec­tion at all, do you? MAU­RICE: None what­so­ever.

MO­RAY: I was an un­der­grad­u­ate and you agreed to meet me, think­ing I was the son of the chair­man of BP. Af­ter about five min­utes you thought: “This is an un­der­grad­u­ate who has ab­so­lutely no rev­enue at­tached to him at all.”

You said: “Nice to meet you…” MAU­RICE: That’s a lie!

MO­RAY: You said: “Nice to meet you, but what you need to do is go down­stairs and see this man called…”, and you wrote on the back of your card, “Len Barkey”.

And so I went down­stairs and I said: “Hello, my name is Mo­ray MacLennan and Mau­rice Saatchi said I should come to see you.”

He replied: “What, Mau­rice Saatchi said that?” And I said: “Yes.” He said: “OK, right. Mau­rice Saatchi?” “Yes.”

MAU­RICE: You’ve made the whole thing up.

MO­RAY: So then he said to me: “What’s he like?” And I said: “He seemed very nice.” He thought I was your nephew and gave me a job. Let’s move on…

MO­RAY: A high­light of that time for you must have been in 1983, when you met me… you have no rec­ol­lec­tion at all, do you?

MAU­RICE: Just be­fore you do, in re­la­tion to the brick wall, with­out a doubt three of the big­gest changes in ad­ver­tis­ing were put in place dur­ing that time. The first was glob­al­i­sa­tion. We were told that this was just a new-busi­ness trick, that it couldn’t pos­si­bly work, that the dif­fer­ences be­tween cul­tures were so great it was doomed to fail­ure, and us with it. That was the view. Well, we see what hap­pened to that.

Sec­ond, the cen­tral­i­sa­tion of me­dia. At the time, me­dia de­part­ments were in agen­cies. We said no, this is no good. When buy­ing me­dia, wheat or oil, the man who has the big­gest or­der is go­ing to get the best price. The re­ac­tion at the time was: “This can never work!” Well, you can see what hap­pened to that.

And the third was the one-stop shop, which is now known as in­te­gra­tion. Peo­ple said clients won’t want to put all their eggs into one bas­ket and buy all the ser­vices from one place. Well, see what hap­pened to that as well!

These are the big­gest rev­o­lu­tions to have hap­pened in ad­ver­tis­ing over the past cen­tury, and we made them hap­pen.

MO­RAY: OK, that’s suf­fi­ciently grand. Fast-for­ward to 1995, the split, and the cre­ation of M&C Saatchi. Mem­o­ries and feel­ings?

MAU­RICE: The end of the Saatchi & Saatchi story and the be­gin­ning of M&C Saatchi are very sim­i­lar, in that how can it be pos­si­ble for 10 peo­ple to leave a com­pany of 13,000 peo­ple and get any­where? I mean, that would be de­fy­ing grav­ity. And yet it hap­pened, Mo­ray. And I think we are all rightly proud of this achieve­ment.

MO­RAY: I have two defin­ing mem­o­ries of the M&C Saatchi start-up, both of which in­volve you. One was when I was at Saatchi & Saatchi – there was no-one above me and I quite liked the view. You asked: “Are you com­ing to join us?” I replied: “Well, this evening I’m due to stand up in front of the agency and tell them ev­ery­thing is fine, and if I do that then I am go­ing to stay.”

And you said: “I com­pletely un­der­stand, which is why when I put down the phone, you need to walk out of your of­fice and never go back.” And then you put down the phone.

MAU­RICE: I do re­mem­ber it. It re­ally is true, and you did say that. And at this point it’s time for me to play a vi­o­lin for you and Tim Duffy. You were in very high po­si­tions with good salaries, with ab­so­lutely rock-solid prospects for your ca­reers. But you both quit and came to join Jeremy [Sin­clair], Bill [Muir­head], David [Ker­shaw] and me. That was an act of in­cred­i­ble courage. You didn’t have to do it.

MO­RAY: One of the rea­sons why I did leave, in­ci­den­tally, was be­cause you lied to me. I turned up at your door, and you said: “It’s not quite how I ex­plained it to you over the phone.” At which point you told me we didn’t have any clients at all!

I thought we had Dixons, Gal­la­her, the Mir­ror Group and Bri­tish Air­ways. We had noth­ing!

My sec­ond me­mory is when we pitched for Bri­tish Air­ways and Qan­tas World­wide. We needed of­fices all around the globe, but we had only 15 em­ploy­ees and were up against the big­gest net­works. You went to the client in Berke­ley Square and got the re­sults. We were all wait­ing and watch­ing from an up­stairs win­dow as you walked down the street to­wards us. You walked up the stairs, opened the door and said: “BA and Qan­tas have awarded all of their busi­ness glob­ally to… M&C Saatchi.” That was a defin­ing mo­ment. MAU­RICE: It’s a fab­u­lous me­mory and, un­usu­ally for you, Mo­ray, it’s com­pletely ac­cu­rate. Those

clients, and all the oth­ers that came, dis­played some­thing that is so vi­tal and so rare, which is loy­alty. What more do you want?

Prob­a­bly con­trary to all ex­pec­ta­tions and prob­a­bly all log­i­cal ad­vice, they did what they did and that changed his­tory. All I can say is that we must have done some­thing right over these years. Along with all the ter­ri­ble mis­takes and all the un­be­liev­able en­cy­clopae­dia of er­rors, we must have done some­thing right.

MO­RAY: One thing we did right, from the start, at M&C Saatchi was to give all our man­agers in all the coun­tries and busi­nesses eq­uity in their com­pany. That cre­ated a com­pletely new cul­ture, a fed­er­a­tion of en­trepreneurs.

MAU­RICE: To be your own boss is such a pow­er­ful hu­man in­stinct, and the whole of this 50-year ad­ven­ture is re­lated to that, the de­sire to be an in­de­pen­dent per­son. What we have done is turn that phi­los­o­phy into a cor­po­rate struc­ture. And it’s be­come more and more rel­e­vant over time.

There are those who would say com­pa­nies don’t need philoso­phies, it’s just a lot of clap­trap, that the only thing that mat­ters for a com­pany is mak­ing profit and de­liv­er­ing on stock-mar­ket ex­pec­ta­tions. Well, I agree, that’s what com­pa­nies have to do, but our po­si­tion is if you want to do that, and be suc­cess­ful in terms of growth and profit, it’s a pr­ereq­ui­site that you do have an ac­tual pur­pose for the com­pany, “a con­sis­tent strate­gic fo­cus and a dis­tinct rea­son for be­ing”, as P&G would say.

To have a rea­son for be­ing as a com­pany is re­ally quite some­thing, and the whole of this story is gov­erned by that. It’s ex­pressed, as it has been for decades, in terms of “Noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble”, “Mir­a­cles can hap­pen”, “An in­di­vid­ual act­ing alone, or al­most sin­gle-hand­edly, makes what seems highly im­prob­a­ble, in fact hap­pen”.

The means to that end, the weapon to achieve it, is sim­plic­ity. Bru­tal sim­plic­ity of thought. The orig­i­nal phrase­ol­ogy was stolen from Ber­trand Rus­sell. He con­cluded that in or­der to con­quer hap­pi­ness, the painful ne­ces­sity of thought was re­quired. Jeremy adapted his phrase into Bru­tal sim­plic­ity of thought. This is ter­ri­bly im­por­tant. This is a com­pany that doesn’t like waf­fle, vague­ness, plat­i­tudes, flim­flam, clichés – we like to get to the point.

MO­RAY: We’re run­ning out of room. Is there any­thing else you would like to say?

MAU­RICE: No, I don’t think there is. I think this is a fab­u­lous story. I am so proud of it all, I can’t tell you. From the very be­gin­ning, those years at Hay­mar­ket that were for­ma­tive, through to to­day, as we sit here in Golden Square. MO­RAY: And fi­nally, is there any­thing else you want to achieve in the few years left to you?

MAU­RICE: Fight against in­equal­ity! Un­fair­ness! In­jus­tice! Heal the sick! Save the right­eous! Pun­ish the wicked! Be known the world over for courage and hero­ism! Will that do? MO­RAY: Nicely. Mau­rice Saatchi is co-founder of Saatchi & Saatchi; Mo­ray MacLennan is world­wide chief ex­ec­u­tive of M&C Saatchi

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