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Agency Profile: M&C Saatchi Berlin

Posted on March 13, 2013 and read 1,862 times

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brettihaismall Agency Profile: M&C Saatchi BerlinBrett McKenzie
Content Producer
Art Directors Club

 

Say the name “Saatchi” in a country like the United Kingdom, and a number of things immediately come to mind, all related to the famous Saatchi brothers, Charles and Maurice. There’s the agency they founded in 1970, the one that has grown to be one of the largest in the world. Then there’s the other agency they started in 1995 after being ousted from the first one. And if you’re even remotely familiar with the art world, you’ll know of Charles Saatchi’s vast art collection. That collection led to the creation of the Saatchi Gallery, one of London’s premier contemporary art museums.

Yes, if you’re in the UK, you know a lot about the Saatchi name.

But if you’re in Germany, unfortunately you probably just know Saatchi & Saatchi.

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mcoffice1 Agency Profile: M&C Saatchi BerlinI’m on Berlin’s ever popular Oranienburger Straße — a street famous for its little currywurst stands, bars and, ahem, solicitous ladies. Only this time I am here for sexy selling of a different nature, for it is here where we find the black and white adorned offices of M&C Saatchi Berlin. It’s a multi-storey narrow building, and Christian Schuck, one of the creative directors, takes us up a few flights of stairs.

Christian begins by ruefully laughing about his agency’s name recognition in Germany. “We’re still pretty young, and we tend to be more understated than other German agencies,” he explains. “Sometimes we get young people coming in for interviews, and they tell us how much they’ve always wanted to work ‘here’ at Saatchi & Saatchi. They are completely unaware that this isn’t Saatchi & Saatchi. We tell them, look, I’m sure you’re a good kid, but this isn’t the place you’re looking for.”

“It’s even worse when clients make the mistake,” Christian chuckles.

Clients and ad school grads that do a little due diligence are surprised to find M&C Saatchi Berlin is a buzzing shop with a family-like vibe. Founded in 2006 after absorbing start-up shop International GmbH, the agency has grown from a handful of creatives and a pair of account people steering the ship, to a multidisciplinary team of about 40 people, covering such areas of expertise as online (M&C Saatchi Shift) events and installations (M&C Saatchi Sun) and most recently sports and entertainment sponsorships. “We’ve had fairly consistent growth over the years, and today our team is about 50% creative,” says Christian. “ I believe that we have a higher percentage of creatives than most agencies because nowadays our creatives are taking on roles that used to be just for accounts and strategists.”

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Creatives here at M&C Saatchi Berlin aren’t just doing a lot more strategizing than usual, they’re also taking greater ownership over their projects. “We tend to keep the number of people on a particular project small, with never more than two creative teams on one assignment,” says Christian. “This makes the team work harder to make the project a success, since it rests on their shoulders. It also makes for great portfolio pieces. Anything that you put into your book, you know that you were responsible for more than just the words or pictures, you helped guide every aspect of the project.”

The creative teams at M&C Saatchi are also very fluid. Gone are the days when an art director and copywriter are paired together on every assignment. Instead they are always changing, and it’s quite possible for two writers to be partnered together, or even for an art director to handle a project solo. That said, if two people work well together, and they know the client well, they tend to partner up more frequently. “We like to shake things up here, but if two people work great together, we aren’t going to discourage that,” explains Christian.

In many fields of business, the workplace environment is ever-evolving, and employee desires and expectations have been evolving right alongside it. “I believe that the advertising industry here in Germany has gone through some changes in recent years,” remarks Christian. “It wasn’t too long ago that young creatives were seeking out the agencies with the most awards, the ones that traded long work hours and temperamental CDs for a rock ‘n roll lifestyle. Nowadays it seems like even newcomers are looking for more work-life balance. They don’t think it’s ‘cool’ to work late every day, to sacrifice weekends. They want time to do their own things, and we try our very best to accommodate this here.” One of the ways M&C Saatchi has accomplished this is by allowing staff to work from home one or two days a week.

While M&C Saatchi Berlin allows for this flexibility, they still want you to come in to work. To make the office a more inviting destination, every team is given a budget to decorate their office as they see fit. “Some people really get into this, while others just grab a few things from IKEA,” says Christian. “Some seem reluctant to take advantage of this perk. I laugh because I think that they think it’s some sort of test to see if they take they money!”

mcoffice3 Agency Profile: M&C Saatchi Berlin

Of course all work and no play makes M&C Saatchi a dull shop, and so the agency tries to liven things up, both inside and outside of the office. At work, there are often impromptu mini table tennis matches springing up, and there is a strong team of Call of Duty fans who use the office’s system once a week to hunt down each other after hours. Outside, a number of staff members get together for a little football (soccer for us in North America), a passion fuelled by the fact that the agency has the legendary Bayer Leverkusen as a client.

Every few months, the people at M&C Saatchi also like to go out en masse to a local bar, but the agency has a tradition that makes it quite difficult to visit the same place twice. “I don’t know how it started, but it’s become sort of a thing for us to remove something from a venue and bring it here as part of the office.,” laughs Christian. “We have some shoeshine equipment that was acquired that way, down eighteen storey without a lift. I think our boss paid for it later, but hey, we enjoy a good heist.”

While it sounds like M&C Saatchi Berlin has a tremendous number of things going for it, like every agency, it has its challenges. Beyond the aforementioned name recognition, Christian says that the agency’s policy of not entering creative award shows means they have to work even harder to attract clients and staff for whom awards accolades are important. “Once they’ve arrived here, clients and employees both really enjoy being part of M&C Saatchi,” he elaborates. “Our largest client [chocolate giant Ferrero] has given us the chance to create work that has been very successful in the marketplace, and our Havana Club work won the Grand Prix at the 2012 Euro Effie Awards. But for those who go straight to the awards annuals to find their next agency, we have to show them we have what it takes.”

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So if all is successful, where does M&C Saatchi Berlin see itself in the next few years? “ Very likely in a different office space,” says Christian. “In spite of the challenges, M&C Saatchi has always been growing at a steady, consistent pace. We’ve had the good fortune of almost never losing a client, and staff really seem to enjoy working here, so it it’s only a matter of time before we’ll need a bigger home. “

And surely by then everyone will recognize the M&C name.

A big thanks to Christian for introducing us to M&C Saatchi Berlin. An extra special thanks to Getty Images for making this visit to Berlin possible.

mcoffice02 Agency Profile: M&C Saatchi Berlin

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Screen Shot 2013 03 13 at 12.36.28 PM Agency Profile: M&C Saatchi Berlin






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