Forty is the gateway to proper adulthood and Saatchi & Saatchi strode through it with consummate grace and style last night at Quay restaurant in Sydney. The agency even gave its audience of past and present Saatchis, Saatchi consultants, Saatchi clients and us (the press) a rare and remarkable adult agency experience – a top creative in a suit and tie with pocket handkerchief. Well done CCO, Mike Spirkovski.
There was, of course, the trip down memory lane – for the grown-up guests, at least. For the younger guests, it was a taste of the time when agencies weren’t afraid to take wild risks and every other ad wasn’t a lifestyle story.
The story of how Saatchi & Saatchi came to make a scruffy chicken the ambassador that launched Toyota Camry was told by Toyota president, Matthew Callachor. Clearly, that risk went well. (It had a lot to do with rival, Holden, launching the Toyota version of a Camry, the Apollo, strapped to a rocket – which had been the agency’s idea for its own TVC and left the agency with two weeks to come up with an alternative.)
Here’s that ad. Apologies for the picture quality:
There was the campaign that made David Jones a world class department store at a time when Australia was little more than a blip on the map when it came to retail.
Yes, I could go on. But won’t. Because Bob Isherwood’s story about turning Saatchi & Saatchi into a restaurant for Toyota intervened. This was retold in full by Toyota’s Bob Miller. The idea had popped into Isherwood’s head while Toyota was expressing its “displeasure” about a DPS in which the agency’s ID was larger than the Toyota logo, which was assessed to be “not what you do to a $100m client”. “If it happens again, I’m going to burn this place down and turn it into a restaurant,” Toyota warned. “What kind of restaurant,” Saatchi’s Mike Newman responded? Isherwood and team then stripped the agency and invited Toyota to its restaurant. Sadly, the stunt was so successful, the agency had to turn away a number of tourists who dropped in without a booking, hoping for a table.
MC, Mark Cochrane, S&S Aus MD
As the agency’s series of reels (decade by decade) progressed and the speeches by Saatchi alumni and clients were delivered, two themes emerged. Firstly, Saatchi & Saatchi has an enviable relationship with its major clients, one in which both sides learn from each other (that’s a client’s quote, not this editor’s input). Secondly, the power of creativity in advertising is enduring in a way that ad-announcements (with which my old ECD used to describe bland advertising: ed) simply are not.
But it was the story of Saatchi’s gutsiest job applicant that won everyone’s hearts. Twenty-two years ago, a 19-year-old boy from Perth and living in Melbourne, wrote, “I really want to work at Saatchi & Saatchi. I really want to work in retail. I think you should interview me.” Saatchi, which was setting up a retail division at the time, was gobsmacked. “Nobody” wanted to work in retail. Mike Rebelo got the interview in Sydney on a Friday morning, and a job the following Monday.
Michael Rebelo, Public Groupe CEO AUNZ
And in the night’s closing speech, Michael Rebelo, showed the whole room why Saatchi had made an excellent decision. He owned the event. Not because he claimed it in top dog fashion. Because he didn’t. His affable and humble personality and his easy-going personal style are Rebelo traits could make you millions if you marketed them. If he didn’t have the patent on them in his DNA.
Please let me leave you with one personal favourite Saatchi ad. It’s not a new ad. Not the wonderful story of a penguin with big dreams for Bank of Melbourne, not the brilliant rashie that teaches CPR, not the so clever book that is an eye test in disguise. It’s a love story – another ad that, like that chicken, broke the mould of car advertising – and bloke advertising – long before men were allowed to have feelings and cars stopped showing off on long and winding roads. It’s this one:
And some tidbits from…