Saatchi Tide Team Asks Off Business

Procter & Gamble has made a big deal lately its desire for better work. Now a dispute over creative direction has led to high-level executive changes on one of its top brands at Saatchi & Saatchi here.

The top account person on Tide, global equity director Marie McNeely, has been taken off the business at her request, as have Sarah Barclay, a creative director on Tide and its European version, Ariel, and two high-level planners.

The team had been struggling to craft a new creative direction, and their frustration peaked last month when the client killed a fairy-tale-like spot for Tide with Downy, sources said. “They bought a new attitude for the brand,” said one source, then “they reverted to their old ways.”

P&G execs could not be reached.

The spot, free of any product demo, shows a tiny tooth fairy collecting a little girl’s tooth and leaving money under her pillow, but becoming so taken with its softness that she falls asleep, sources said.

The ad was sold in storyboard form, shot by director Gerard de Thame and tested well, said sources. It is rare for P&G to kill a produced and tested spot, but the client felt it was too ethereal and failed to convey the product’s functional benefits, said sources. A spot in which a rooster fails to stir a sleeping couple was chosen to run instead.

Saatchi worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts said the decision to put fresh eyes on the account was his, made in consultation with McNeely, a 10-year veteran on Tide. One candidate to replace her is believed to be Chris Foster, who oversees P&G in Asia, said sources.