40 years of Nothing is Impossible

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Saatchi & Saatchi: 40 years of nothing is impossible

Nothing is impossible – a phrase you have probably heard before. Perhaps, it’s a phrase you may have dismissed as adland’s meaningless spin. That is unless you’ve passed through the ranks of Saatchi & Saatchi.

Some might say Charles and Maurice Saatchi set the bar pretty high back in 1970 with this tagline. But, the legacy and mindset still live on today.

Upon joining the agency, Anthony Gregorio, Saatchi & Saatchi CEO for ANZ, certainly began to understand that these words were more than a tagline.

“It’s well known our mantra is ‘Nothing Is Impossible’, which the co-founding brothers coined from the very beginning, and it really is embedded in the DNA of the culture.” Gregorio says.

“This spirit permeates everything we do: we believe that anything is possible for our clients and we hold each other accountable every day to ensure whatever we do is the absolute best it can be.”

Taking over the reins in 2018, Gregorio made the leap to an agency that he has always considered “the best brand in advertising” after a 15-year stint at Havas and hasn’t looked back.

“It’s a privilege to finally be working here. For me, the reputation of the business has always been incredibly high. Very, very few agency brands stay relevant and strong for as long as Saatchi & Saatchi has,” he says.

“There was a level of trepidation in taking the role because I needed to ensure I maintained the standard, especially taking the mantle on in Australia from Mike Rebelo, who has set an incredibly high bar.”

In 1979, Saatchi & Saatchi graced the shores of Australia, opening up shop in Sydney. Forty years later, it is still thriving with 160 staff across three offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and clients including Toyota, St.George Bank, NRMA, Campbells Arnott’s and Nestlé.

The plethora of big-name alumni was evident at the agency’s 40th birthday celebrations at Quay Restaurant with sprawling views of Sydney’s harbour – celebrating an iconic name at an iconic location.

Both current and former faces filled the venue alongside clients like Toyota, Westpac Group and Campbell Arnotts – and the odd journo – to celebrate the milestone.

Laughter was ubiquitous as the likes of former worldwide creative director Bob Isherwood, former Team Saatchi managing director Sharon Skeggs, ex-Toyota marketing boss Bob Miller, and more relived their memories with the agency.

Of all the stories told on the night – including some of the outrageous “urban legends” – one story reigned. A story of a boy from Perth who wanted to work in retail at Saatchi. A boy who spotted the agency’s latest account win, David Jones, in a copy of AdNews, prompting him to write to the agency, pitching himself as a suitable candidate for them.

Twenty-two years later, that boy has held roles including managing director of Saatchi & Saatchi London and CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Australia. Now, the CEO of Saatchi’s parent company Publicis Groupe ANZ, Mike Rebelo has been a loyal member.

Rebelo drills Saatchi’s success down to three core reasons: continued belief in the power of creativity, the Saatchi spirit and world-class standards. “It has been able to flex and adapt with the changing times. In 1998, Bob Isherwood removed the word ‘advertising’ from our name and repositioned Saatchi & Saatchi as an ‘Ideas Company’. For context that was the year Google launched!” Rebelo says.

Naming it the “most famous” agency in advertising, Rebelo dubs Saatchi as the “ad agency brand even your Mum has heard of”. He also attributes the agency’s success to the calibre of talent it has pulled.

“Over the years, the people and the culture can be described as eclectic and eccentric; diversity at its best,” he says.

“We have always hired really smart people who have wanted to do great things … with a huge belief in the power of creativity and a healthy dose of chutzpah.”

Rebelo has a substantial list of achievements during his tenure, which includes expanding the agency’s operations in Melbourne. When it came to finding the right person to take charge in Melbourne, Rebelo called on Saatchi veteran Mark Cochrane.

“Many said it would be tough for a Kiwi or an outsider to take on a tight-knit market. I saw that as a challenge, and an opportunity,” Cochrane says.

“It’s a challenge I am excited by every day through creating a culture that is optimistic, humble and remembers, it’s the work that will set us free.”

Cochrane has worked in Saatchi’s global network in New Zealand, the UK and Thailand before moving to Australia. So, what has kept him in the Saatchi circle?

“Three words. Nothing Is Impossible,” Cochrane says.

“Every agency has its challenges and is never perfect, but it’s the agency’s burning ambition to create impossible outcomes for businesses, brands and society that has me whistling into work every day, and I think most the people who work here do too.” 

Proudest moment/greatest achievement

AG: I’ve only been here 16 months so hopefully there are lot of great moments to come. From a work perspective we’re really proud of the new Bank of Melbourne campaign. Also our new business record has been good and to welcome back a brand like NRMA, for whom we originally created the “HELP” brand line, was a good feeling.

MR: Firstly, getting the job as an account manager at Team Saatchi in 1997, as a young lad from Perth. More recently, helping the team put Saatchi & Saatchi back on to a sustainable growth trajectory after some instability. Winning St.George Bank then Bank Of Melbourne and BankSA. Opening a Melbourne office and seeing that thrive. Acquiring MercerBell back in 2016 to broaden our capabilities in customer experience. Winning back-to-back Cannes Innovation Lions; OPSM’s Penny the Pirate and Toyota’s LandCruiser Emergency Network. Wining EFFIES Agency of the Year in 2015. Watching so many of our team grow and do amazing things both within Saatchi & Saatchi and also outside of the brand. Finally, handing over the reins to Anthony Gregorio in 2018, and genuinely knowing that he had an awesome team of people and a business that was on the cusp of even greater things to come under his leadership.

MC: My proudest Saatchi Melbourne moment was about six weeks ago – at the time of interview. It comes from four years of team work, adapting, and the creative thinking from all 55 of the team here at City Road. I think it symbolises the arrival of the company in the creative coliseum that is the Melbourne market, and hopefully he start of something special.

Favourite work/s to come out of Saatchi & Saatchi

AG: Locally it’s Toyota “Nothing Soft Gets In”. Making a brand like Toyota part of the fabric of Australia underlines what Saatchi & Saatchi is better at than anyone. Globally the work London did for Castlemaine XXXX beer. Irreverent, funny and with attitude. What good beer advertising should be.

MR: Camry Chicken Campaign. Hilux “Unbreakable Bromance”. NRMA “HELP Job Interview”. Toohey’s New Beer Economy. Toyota Border Security. St.George Bank “Start Something”, Westpac Rescue Rashie. OPSM “Penny the Pirate Eye Test”. Toyota LandCruiser Emergency Network (LEN), Toyota Kluger “Boy in the back seat”, David Jones “There’s No Other Store”.

MC: One of my favourite pieces of work to come out of Saatchi & Saatchi is not actually from Australia, but from our European colleagues. It was an in-house ad posted on the Berlin Wall in 1990 simply reading: “Saatchi & Saatchi, First over the wall”. The behaviour of this ad says everything.