How legendary ad firm Saatchi & Saatchi is trying to bounce back from last year’s disastrous CEO gender blunder

Saatchi & Saatchi New York chief creative officer Javier Campopiano (left) with CEO Andrea Diquez (right) at Cannes Saatchi & Saatchi New York

When Andrea Diquez took on her role as chief executive officer of Saatchi & Saatchi New York last summer, the agency was trying to erase a big stain.

This year, things are looking up, thanks in part to another big stain.

A year ago, the Publicis shop’s global chairman Kevin Roberts had just resigned after controversially stating that the gender diversity debate within the industry was “over,” its chief executive and chief creative officer had just departed and it was just on the verge of losing its longstanding client, General Mills.

To top things off, the legendary agency was already struggling to maintain its pre-eminent position in recent years, under pressure from the rapid changes in advertising being brought around by digital. 

“The morale was low, but my entire career has been about turning things around,” Diquez, who was most recently president of Saatchi’s New York headquarters and global director of the Olay account for P&G, told Business Insider. “My aim was to continue to move forward.”

The first thing she did was bring Javier Campopiano on board as the agency’s chief creative officer from his stint as Saatchi’s Latin America chief creative officer. Together, they embarked on a comeback trail.

The duo had one-one-meetings with clients as well as each of its 250 plus employees, took feedback and put a plan in action. They overhauled their teams and prioritised diversity more than ever before (The agency is 65% women, with 80% of the its leadership is now comprised of women).

And they focused on strengthening their client relationships, fostering an open and collaborative culture, and producing business results. Plus, the pair sought to infuse creativity into everything they did and most importantly, having fun and laughing more. 

“You can’t fix things without listening,” said Diquez. “It was important to understand everybody and their clients, before ensuring we were delivering what they and their clients both needed.”

Now, almost a year since the agency was stained, the plan seems to be working. Saatchi New York is redeeming itself through successful campaigns for big-name brands like Walmart and Tide, a reinvigorated culture and a couple of big award wins at the Cannes Lions under her and Campopiano’s leadership — one of them ironically centered around stains.

The agency’s elaborate Super Bowl campaign for Procter & Gamble’s Tide called “Bradshaw stain” just snapped up five Golds, four Silvers and three Bronze Lions at Cannes last week, one of the biggest annual gatherings for the advertising, media and creative industries. It’s also the first time in nearly 10 years that the agency has walked away from Cannes with such success. 

Help from a sloppy NFL Legend

The stunt — featuring Fox commentator and former NFL star Terry Bradshaw appearing at the Super Bowl with a stain on his shirt and then scrambling for clean clothes and ending up in actor Jeffrey Tambor’s lawn — not only sent Twitter into an overdrive, but also resulted in a record 22% sales lift for the brand’s pods product, according to the agency. 


Another one for Walmart, consisted three films directed by four directors, which were all based on six items from a fictional Walmart receipt. It won a Bronze Lion in the entertainment category.

For Campopiano, the aim behind both the campaigns was to push the envelope and bring the agency’s longtime motto “Nothing Is Impossible” to life, not necessarily take a shot at awards. He has even instituted a weekly get-together called “Envy Mornings,” where the agency’s staffers, particularly creatives, get together to discuss outstanding work they wish they’d done. 

“The whole industry perceived as still being very traditional and stuck in the past, and we wanted to challenge that notion,” he said. “Both the campaigns innovate around what people may call classic TV, but are integrated ideas. They needed everything, including TV, print and digital, to be cohesive, or they wouldn’t have worked.” 

But still, winning is ultimately good, not only boosting the morale but also an agency’s competitive standing in the market.

“That’s what you get from awards, a shot of good energy that lifts up the collective spirit and brings an extra sense of optimism,” said Diquez. “The sense of pride was beyond the award shows, we knew we had created very good work in the short period of time since we took the reigns.”

The two are determined to keep Saatchi New York on an upward trajectory, continuing to push more innovative work, building clients’ businesses and attracting new clients. They also aim to strengthen their creative output by making parent company Publicis Groupe’s newly minted “Power of One” strategy — which aims to remove silos to provide clients with more integrated services — a key pillar.

“While we’ve primarily focused on our people and strengthening our client relationships and businesses, we’ve had some good wins specifically with USAA working within the Power of One,” said Diquez.

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