Saatchi, Fallon Forge Mini-Group

NEW YORK Publicis Groupe shops Saatchi & Saatchi and Fallon have forged an alliance known as SSF Group that’s designed to fuel growth for Fallon in the U.S. and provide top leadership for Saatchi in the U.K., the parent company said today.

The mini-group will be steered globally by Saatchi worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts and led in the U.K. by Robert Senior, a managing partner at Fallon’s London office, who becomes U.K. CEO of SSF Group. At the same time, Fallon worldwide chairman Pat Fallon’s title will change to chairman emeritus on Jan. 1, 2008. Until that time, he will retain day-to-day oversight of the agency, according to an agency representative.

While the chairman emeritus title effectively ends Fallon’s oversight of the agency he founded in 1981, he will “play an active advisory role in the new group’s direction,” according to Publicis.

Despite the alliance, the two agencies will operate as standalone brands. Fallon’s Minneapolis headquarters, however, will now report to SSF Group, instead of the holding company, as in the past.

“This new group is a unique partnership of two of the most acclaimed creative agencies in the entire industry and enables both networks to maximize the potential of their creative resources at a global level,” said Publicis CEO Maurice Lévy, in a statement. “I am confident that the new structure will usher in a new era of powerful growth for Fallon and Saatchi & Saatchi.”

In the past two years, Fallon’s U.S. operation has been beset by major client losses (including Citibank, BMW and United Airlines) and turnover in creative leadership. At the same time, Saatchi’s New York headquarters has improved creatively and won major accounts, such as J.C. Penney and Wendy’s.

In London, however, Saatchi has lost some of its creative luster and, in April, its CEO, Lee Daley, left to become commercial director of Manchester United. In contrast, Fallon London has become a global creative leader on the strength of its work for Sony.

Fallon said the creation of SSF Group reflects “our admiration of Kevin Roberts and the success of the Saatchi & Saatchi organization,” adding that a “closer relationship between the two agencies will help our growth, provide development opportunities for our people and ensure a bright future for Fallon as a standalone brand, while continuing to deliver the best to our clients.”

Said Roberts: “Fallon is an iconic brand full of irreverence, courage and smarts. I’m honored to have the chance to work with Fallon’s leadership on taking the brand forward.”

In April, Lévy reflected on Fallon’s client losses, telling Adweek, “We are facing a period that is not very good, it’s not very pleasant, but I’m sure at the end of the day we will find a very good solution for Fallon. They will bounce back, they will rebound.”

Saatchi also said today that it had replaced Jim O’Mahony, its CEO for Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America, with Simon Francis, managing director of Europe for Omnicom Group’s OMD. Francis becomes EMEA CEO for Saatchi, while O’Mahony shifts to CEO for the China, Russia, India, Brazil regions.

O’Mahony will retain his oversight of Asia as well, but relinquish his Latin American duties. Roberts is expected to name a Latin American leader next week. Both Francis and O’Mahony report to Roberts.