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Agency Profile: Saatchi & Saatchi Toronto

Posted on July 10, 2011 and read 5,100 times

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brettcreditpic Agency Profile: Saatchi & Saatchi TorontoBrett McKenzie
Chief Writer, SBN2
IHAVEANIDEA

 

The Toronto offices of Saatchi & Saatchi have always held a special place in the hearts of us at IHAVEANIDEA; Nat Salguiero, IHAVEANIDEA’s editor, had an art director internship there, and one of the site’s earliest, most ardent supporters was the agency’s CD at the time, a crazy-in-a-good-way Argentine named Mariano Favetto. The Saatchi office was located in King James Place, a strip of 19th century buildings near King and Church Streets. This locale put them away from most of the multinationals, not just in physical geography, but in architecture. No gleaming office tower for the Saatchi of old, but rather a structure that some liken to the innards of an old battleship, with many small, compartmentalized offices.

But like all things in the ad world, you have to change and evolve or stagnate. As such, the Saatchi of today is very different from the one merely ten years ago. Gone are the dim interiors along King Street, replaced in 2007 by lots of bright white décor, wood accents and subtle touches of Canadiana at the corner of Yonge and Bloor. And while Mariano has long departed to pursue artistic dreams, today we have the just-as-crazy-in-a-good-way ECD team of Helen Pak and Brian Sheppard.

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At first glance, the offices of Saatchi Toronto doesn’t seem too different than most open concept agencies, but one interesting touch is that there is no hierarchy when it comes to space. Forget corner offices, everybody is afforded the exact same amount of desk space, from the junior copywriter right up to Stuart Payne, the President and CEO.

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Saatchi’s creative department is certainly one that is kept on its toes. Surprisingly small and nimble – about thirteen people in an agency of 55 – Saatchi’s creatives are made up of traditional art director/copywriter teams backed by a mysteriously named Department of Stuff, a group of technologists, producers and media experts whose task is to figure out how the things the creatives think up can be done. This often leads to media agnostic creative briefs, and a project that begins with “traditional” media doesn’t stay traditional for very long.

The size of the creative department at Saatchi also means that titles such as “junior” or “intermediate” are pretty much meaningless. “Everybody gets involved in everything here,” says Brian. “There’s no rule saying you must have a certain number of years under your belt before you can get a shot of television. And if you come across something that you need help with, because our team is so small connected to each other, you can always get a hand. Surprisingly this works both ways, as some of the older creatives might need a junior’s help with some of the newer technology. This is especially apparent as our output becomes more digital. I’d say we do more work for a digital world, a connected, interactive, social media world than we do print and TV.” This is evident in some of the amazing work the agency has done for the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada and FITC.

 

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Surely such a merry bunch of creatives and “stuff makers” has a philosophy they live by. “We sorta stumbled across a philosophy during one of our creative offsites, when we took the whole department to see Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless,” says Helen. “The wonderful thing about that film is how it has stood the test of time, and has remained famous. And after watching the film and discussing it, it inspired us to create a mandate for ourselves to make everyone famous. To make each one of us famous, to make our clients famous, to make Saatchi famous.”

“Nobody wants ideas to hide, and nobody wants a career where you go unrecognized or unnoticed,” Brian continues in agreement. “When we have creative meetings, we often say ‘that’s an okay idea, but how is it going to make the client famous?’ We find it’s a great yardstick to use.”

“This all might sound trivial or self-serving, but fame is a great motivator,” says Helen. “We know we should be officially saying ‘we want great return on investment’ or ‘we want to sell x units of product;, but all of this will sorta fall into place if everyone becomes famous, so why not embrace that?”

It seems like the new Saatchi, much like the old one, is poised to grab that bit of fame at every opportunity, and we wish Helen, Brian and the whole team the best of luck!

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