Saatchi Shuffle Is Latest In A String Of CEO Turnovers

The flurry of executive changes at the top of several New York ad agencies continued last week with Saatchi & Saatchi naming Arnold’s Mary Baglivo the sole CEO after four years of management experiments with multiple leaders.

In the past five weeks alone, new CEOs have been named at Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day (Brett Gos-per), Interpublic’s Lowe (Tony Wright) and Publicis-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty (Gwyn Jones).

Those moves follow the installation this year of new CEOs at the New York offices of Publicis (Gil Duff), IPG’s Foote, Cone & Belding (Lynne Seid), WPP’s J. Walter Thompson (Rosemarie Ryan) and Publicis’ Chicago-based Leo Burnett (Tom Bernardin).

Naturally, there is no universal motivation behind the moves. Some shops, like Burnett, simply filled a vacant position. In BBH’s case, a new CEO was appointed as the previous one moved to a broader, more global role.

But at Saatchi, worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts made it clear he’s tired of “business as usual” and seeking a transformation.

That impatience, prompted by parent-company pressure not only to meet but exceed growth expectations, is shared by many peers and appears to have accelerated the turnover trend.

“It’s a more volatile type of business that needs to change, and this is one way to do it,” said Arthur Anderson of Morgan Anderson Consulting in New York, who described the trend as “changing horses.” He added that advertising is no different than any other industry in this regard. “Changes of executives in situations where the agency needs more growth is typical in all sorts of categories of business, agencies included.”

Saatchi, like BBH, brought in both a new CEO (Baglivo, 46, who also will carry the title of worldwide marketing director) and a creative chief: Tony Granger, 44, executive creative director at Saatchi’s London office, who replaces chief creative officer Tod Seisser, 47, who is leaving after nearly seven years. Baglivo and Granger start next month.

“We are going to be out there now. This is not going to be business as usual,” said Roberts, 56. “This is a transforming moment for us. We’ve brought in a peak performing team. We have very high expectations for them. We think they’re rock stars, and we expect them to do a bunch of things.”

More specifically, Roberts added: “We expect them to start bringing big, gold things home. Right? Because that’s what you do. We don’t see any difference here. We expect Mary to keep getting us onto 12 pitch lists and converting them now because we’ve got a team behind her that she has never had before.”

In addition to bringing in new faces, Roberts has re-established a traditional CEO and ecd hierarchy, after experimenting most recently with a joint CEO setup with Mike Burns and Scott Gilbert. Gilbert, 50, resigned in April, and Burns, 48, is expected to continue in his role as worldwide account director on General Mills, a key global client.