More Auto Focus At Saatchi in SoCal

With 3 new hires, L.A. office drops pursuit of local business

When local retailer Barbecues Galore launched a review in February for its $5 million account, Saatchi & Saatchi showed up to pitch—and lost to a tiny shop named Woo Advertising.

In Los Angeles, the nation’s No. 2 market, even the big agencies often chase little fish. But while Saatchi’s office here has tried in fits and starts to extend its roster beyond flagship Toyota’s $625 million U.S. account and Procter & Gamble’s Pur water filters ($40 million), it has had little success. Last week’s addition of three automotive veterans to run the office has ended that quest.

“It is my desire to be Toyota’s most valued business partner everywhere in the goddamned world, and I believe we can get more growth doing that,” stated worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts. “I don’t like chasing Mickey Mouse regional accounts that come and go; that’s not the game we’re in. I want to do the best car advertising in the world, and I want to do it from Los Angeles.”

To lead the office here, Saatchi tapped Kurt Ritter, previously general manager of Buick and Pontiac at General Motors, as CEO; former Lexus and Mercedes marketing executive Rich Anderman as managing director/COO; and Mark Turner, from Lincoln Mercury shop Young & Rubicam in Irvine, Calif., as planning director for Toyota in North America.

The trio replaces former Los Angeles CEO Scott Gilbert, now a managing partner at Saatchi in New York. The West Coast now follows the many-headed management approach Roberts has instilled in the New York office, where four executives split leadership.

“Management leadership is not where it’s at,” said Roberts. “It’s about inspiration, players all working together as teams. I’m slowly putting that in place everywhere.”