Fallon Taps Saatchi Exec as New CEO

BOSTON Fallon today named Chris Foster chief executive of its North American operations.

For the past three years, Foster, 43, has served as evp, global equity director at Saatchi & Saatchi in New York. In that role, he led efforts across Procter & Gamble’s global portfolio of laundry and household cleaning products such as Ariel, Cascade and Tide. He has also served as gm of international accounts for Saatchi’s Asia-Pacific region and as CEO of the agency’s operations in Hong Kong and Japan.

Both Fallon and Saatchi are units of Publicis Groupe operated under the SSF Group banner, an alliance forged last August designed to fuel growth for Fallon and provide leadership for Saatchi in the U.K. Saatchi worldwide chairman Kevin Roberts oversees SSF.

The two agencies operate as standalone brands. Fallon’s Minneapolis headquarters, however, reports to SSF, instead of directly to the holding company, as it had before the alliance

“Chris Foster has been an inspirational leader,” Roberts said in a statement. “He is strategic, creative and has executive acumen — a perfect combination.”

This represents a new division of responsibilities within the newly created SSF organization, with Foster leading in North America and Robert Senior continuing as CEO of SSF in the U.K., with oversight of both Fallon and Saatchi’s London offices. Fallon employs 200 staffers at its H.Q., and about 550 overall.

Pat Fallon, the legendary shop founder whose day-to-day oversight of the agency ended when SSF was formed, said, “Chris is a leader who will challenge the Fallon team to once again rewrite the rules of what’s possible in our industry.” Fallon now serves as chairman emeritus of the agency he founded in 1981 and SSF.

Foster called the chance to join Fallon “irresistible,” especially given the agency’s “revered” status as a creative force in the industry. Not surprisingly, he also noted that winning new business, both domestic and international, is a key goal.

In the past several years, Fallon’s U.S. operations have been beset by major client losses (including Citibank, BMW and United Airlines) and turnover in creative leadership. Last month, Fallon placed second to MDC Partners’ Crispin Porter + Bogusky for a $300 million creative assignment from Microsoft.

At the same time, Saatchi’s New York headquarters has improved creatively and won major accounts, notably JC Penney and Wendy’s. (Though the latter last month shifted lead creative duties to another roster shop, MDC’s Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners in New York, Saatchi remains on Wendy’s roster.)

Key Fallon clients include Travelers, Nestle Purina PetCare, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Time magazine and Equinox Fitness Clubs, among others.