Kevin Roberts, the former executive chairman of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi who resigned from his role following controversial comments he made about gender in the advertising industry in an interview with Business Insider last year, has been hired by UK communications firm Beattie as its chairman.
Roberts, who was also head coach of Saatchi’s parent company Publicis Groupe, will be charged with coaching the senior Beattie team and helping the 30-year-old company grow internationally.
Beattie is headquartered in London and has eight offices in the UK. It claims to be the biggest B2B PR agency and marketing consultancy in the country, projecting global group turnover of £50 million ($60.7 million) by 2020.
The company, which also includes the Only agency, works with clients including Huggies, Seven Seas, La Redoute, and Porvair. Beattie says seven of the 10 members of its leadership team are women.
In a press release, Beattie Group CEO Laurna Woods, said: “We are delighted to have recruited one of the world’s most inspirational business minds to help us expand in the UK, North America and Australasia.”
Roberts said in the release: “Beattie’s 2017 strategy is clear — recruit great people and open offices in line with client needs. We’re in for some exciting times as we build the Beattie and Only brands internationally.”
The former Saatchi executive resigned from his position in August days after he was placed “on leave of absence” by Publicis Groupe in response to the comments he made in an interview, suggesting that the debate about diversity in the advertising industry was “over” and that he spent “no time” thinking about the issue because the France-based holding company had a 50-50 gender split amongst all its staff.
His comments made headlines around the world and many senior executives in the advertising industry heaped their criticism on Roberts following the interview’s publication. Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy released a statement shortly after the article was published saying Roberts’ comments were “unacceptable,” while Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Robert Senior said Roberts’ views were not the position of the agency and “the issue of gender diversity is not in any way over for our industry.”
In a statement announcing his resignation Roberts apologised that his “miscommunication” had caused offence.
In a TV interview that aired in New Zealand in December, Roberts said his statements were misunderstood and were taken out of context. He also admitted his judgment had been “appalling” and he was “tired, fatigued, in the middle of interview number four and was not at my best. Fail.”
Roberts has also since become the chairman of another company, a New Zealand cricket app called CricHQ, in which he was also made a “seven-figure” investment, according to Stuff.
Roberts began his advertising career in 1969 at Mary Quant cosmetics in the UK, where he was a brand manager. According to New York magazine, Roberts had persuaded management to hire him even though he had no experience by offering to work for six months at half-pay.
From there he joined Gillette’s marketing team, working on women’s toiletries, before joining Procter & Gamble in 1975, where he spent seven years as chief of marketing for its Middle East division. It was there that he first got to know Saatchi, as the agency’s client.
He later went on to Pepsi in the Middle East before switching to become CEO of Pepsi Canada. After that he spent seven years as director and chief operating officer of the New Zealand brewery Lion Nathan before eventually joining Saatchi & Saatchi as global CEO in 1997.
In 2015, his role changed to executive chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi and head coach at Publicis Groupe. The head coach role involved supporting the company’s “P12” directors and helping the company with its recent restructuring.
Outside his advertising job, Roberts is a business ambassador for the New Zealand United States Council and the chairman of the home-delivery service My Food Bag. He also teaches at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University.
He has written three books: “64 Shots: Leadership in a Crazy World,” “Peak Performance: Business Lessons from the World’s Top Sporting Organisations,” and “Lovemarks: the Future Beyond Brands.”