Saatchi set for full-scale war

Advertising rivalry: Maurice is cleared to pitch head-to-head for his previous company's clients
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Maurice Saatchi, Britain's best-known advertising man, will next week declare full-blown war on his old firm, Cordiant, launching an aggressive campaign to lure away clients and staff.

The move will follow the expiration on New Year's Eve of a legal agreement signed last June between M&C Saatchi and Cordiant, the new name of Saatchi & Saatchi, under which Maurice and Charles Saatchi agreed to avoid all contact with clients and staff of their former company.

"It is pleasing to be able to start the new year with the ability to compete directly with all our competitors," Mr Saatchi said from his country home yesterday.

Added a senior M&C Saatchi insider: "There are lots of old contacts that will now be revived. There is a long list of desirable clients we would like to have."

Cordiant's top clients include Dupont, General Mills, Hewlett-Packard and Toyota.

Asked whether M&C Saatchi, the rival firm established by the Saatchi brothers one year ago, intended to move aggressively to poach new clients, Mr Saatchi responded: "You can rely on that."

Cordiant, the holding company that operates Saatchi & Saatchi, the UK agency which is headed by Jennifer Laing, as well as other ad agencies worldwide, said: "We begin 1996 in the best position to gain newsbusiness than for many years."

Cordiant lost several high-profile clients earlier this year, following the acrimonious departure of the Saatchi brothers from the company they co-founded. The brothers lured away Mirror Group, Silk Cut, Dixons and British Airways, among other clients, when they set up a rival firm on 11 January. The defections pushed Cordiant into near-crisis.

Last summer, Cordiant and M&C Saatchi agreed to drop all legal actions and to maintain a ceasefire until the end of 1995.

Since then, Cordiant has managed to win new business and to retain several high-profile clients, including high-spenders Proctor & Gamble and Toyota.

In the Spring, Saatchi & Saatchi UK, the London-based agency, recruited a new chairwoman, Jennifer Laing, and announced it would henceforth be "business as usual." In the autumn, the holding company announced the appointment of Bob Seelert, a US consumer products executive, to oversee the company's recovery.

The client losses have led to lower revenues and a restructuring programme aimed at cutting costs and staffing levels. Cordiant employs 10,500 people worldwide, of which 4,000 work for Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, the international network of which the London-based agency is a part.

Media analysts point out that the two adversaries remain mismatched. Since M&C Saatchi was set up, it has won business worth about pounds 300m in billings a year, of which about pounds 120m is UK-based. The company does not reveal revenues. Cordiant, for its part, had revenues of pounds 775m last year, and billings of nearly pounds 4bn. M&C Saatchi is heavily weighted toward the UK, with 140 staff in London, another 40 in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney.

But M&C Saatchi insiders said yesterday the company could handle global accounts with ease, relying in part on its link to Publicis, the international agency. "Publicis is like a distribution system for us," said one senior executive. "We don't need to spend money on an expensive international network. We have shown we can handle BA's global account, for example, working on campaigns in 60 countries."

M&C Saatchi intends to push for more business from its existing clients in 1996, having won international work for Quantas (worth about A$40m a year), BA and Glaxo Wellcome.

"We had a great 1995," Mr Saatchi said, "and I expect 1996 to be just as good or better."

Advertising accounts gained since January 1995*

M&C Saatchi

Account Annual billings

Mirror Group pounds 20m

Silk Cut pounds 8.5m

Dixons pounds 40m

BA (UK only) pounds 30m

PPP pounds 5m

Sekonda pounds 1m

Courage Best pounds 2.5m

Scottish Equitable pounds 3.5m

Qantas (UK only) pounds 3m

Head pounds 2.5m

Alamo pounds 1.5m

Psizer pounds 1.3m

Glaxo Wellcome (Corporate) pounds 2.5m

Saatchi & Saatchi

Account Annual billings

Carlsberg Tetley pounds 4m

Sketchleys pounds 1m

Proctor & Gamble pounds 25m

Comet pounds 24m

Playboy pounds 1.5m

MS Society pounds 0.6m

Dr Peppers pounds 8m

Norwich Union Direct pounds 10m

*UK business only

Source: Campaign