Bob Isherwood Exiting Saatchi

Bob Isherwood, Saatchi & Saatchi’s longtime worldwide creative director and partner to CEO Kevin Roberts, is leaving the agency after 22 years, a Saatchi representative confirmed this afternoon.

Isherwood, a native of Australia, joined Saatchi in 1986 and has held the agency’s top creative post since 1996. It was not immediately clear how the shop would fill the role.

In some ways, the exit of a veteran creative chief is not surprising. But it comes amid pressure from parent company Publicis Groupe, which like its peers, is cutting expenses to respond to declines in client spending, said sources.

Isherwood, for his part, said he has no intention of retiring — “that would be a life without purpose” — but rather wants to “do something dynamic and interesting.” He added: “I want to reinvent myself and take on a bigger challenge.”

Whatever he takes on, it will be related to advertising, according to Isherwood, who, among other things, would consider working on the client side.

Roberts, a longtime client executive who crossed over to the agency world when he became CEO in 1997, has long credited Isherwood with helping him make that transition. In an interview in 2003, Roberts told Adweek that he didn’t make a move “without talking to Bob Isherwood first.”

And while some networks have questioned value of worldwide creative directors, Roberts has been an outspoken advocate, saying last year, “In our business it’s about the work and the business. And the two should be connected at the top.”

Today, Roberts said of Isherwood’s impending departure: “Bob leaves with our love, admiration, respect, thanks, encouragement and support.”

In the worldwide cd role, Isherwood sat down twice a year with executives from top client Procter & Gamble to discuss the Publicis Groupe agency’s work and at least once a year with Toyota executives in Japan. He also takes on global pitches, such as the $50 million Toyota Prius review that Saatchi won in 2003.