Comment: M&C Saatchi's founders deserve the blame for its woes

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AD men are good at mottos. It’s what they’re paid to do.  

M&C Saatchi’s is typically catchy: “Brutal simplicity.”

Rivals had a brutally simple message for the company today. “Game over.” 

It will, indeed, be hard for the agency formed from the fire and fury of Maurice Saatchi’s ousting from Saatchi & Saatchi not to burn up with similar drama.

Today’s profit warning is a catastrophe. While M&C had already signalled it had “accounting issues”, the fact they’re so much worse than thought signals a business out of control. Money from contract wins was booked before it arrived, revenue was booked without the corresponding costs. Basic stuff. Blaming it all on one man — the ex-finance director — doesn’t cut it.

Put beside profits below what the agency signalled just weeks ago, plus “higher than expected central overheads” — whatever that means — and you see a management team with its eye off the ball.

Blame must lie with the super-rich veterans Maurice Saatchi, Bill Muirhead, Jeremy Sinclair and David Kershaw who run and own much of the firm. They’ve been living well for years on dividends and bonuses. Each is a legend in Adland but do they still have the drive and commitment of old? You have to doubt it. 

CEO Kershaw pledges he’ll nurse M&C back from the brink, but new blood is needed.

Another ad giant, Nigel Bogle of BBH, used to say he was only three phone calls away from disaster.

With the loss of NatWest, the accounting crisis and now today’s profit warning, M&C just got its third call.

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December 5, 2019 |
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