Advertising Agencies and Leadership – David Kershaw, M&C Saatchi

On Thursday the 12th of November, our class had the opportunity to attend a lecture held by David Kershaw about advertising agencies and leadership.
David Kershaw is a founding director of M&C Saatchi, a global marketing services business working across a variety of industry sectors. He joined Saatchi & Saatchi in 1982 after obtaining an MBA at London Business School. He became managing director in 1990 and was made chairman and chief executive of the UK agency in 1994.


At the beginning of his presentation, David Kershaw introduced himself and his company which its primary target is to create “communication that sells things and ideas for his clients”. He then went on analysing how the market changed through the years since he started his career, and how it became wider if we think of how many, new and different channels of communication we now have (PR, social media, sport & entertainment sponsorship, mobile, shopper marketing, content, etc.).

The focus of his presentation was based on the “six key questions” that an advertising agency should ask itself before starting a new business with a new client:
1) Who are we selling to?
2) What do we want them to do?
3) What should we say?
4) How should we say it?
5) Where shall we say it?
6) How will we know if it works?
These questions are fundamental to be able to tell a story that will impact the public and also avoid complexity and ambiguity in the process of selling a product.
One of the key factor that an advertising agency should take into account explained David Kershaw, is, in fact, the clarity of the purpose, by keeping just one straightforward and linear strategy and by avoiding platitudes. An advertisement should, in fact, be able to create an emotional relationship between the product and the public and should tell the story that the audience is expecting to here. To make the concept clearer, Mr Kershaw provided a few examples. As he mentioned, the Australian company “Mighty White Bread” advertising campaign was directed specifically to mothers and children, which justified why the central message of the advertisement was the fact that their bread contained more iron and was consequently better for the kids’ nutrition.

In an advertising agency, these are the roles required: the strategic planners, the creatives, the media planners and the buyers. Each of these functions responds to a particular key question explained above.

While looking for people to hire, David Kershaw claimed that the M&C Saatchi doesn’t base just on qualifications. In order to be a successful leader in this sector is fundamental to encourage and manage risks. Knowing when to take risks and when to be safe is critical in an industry that requires to be always innovative and creative. “Habit is a terrible thing, always try to challenge yourself”, states Kershaw. Energy is another key factor in the hiring process; it is important to show how enterprising you can be and how willing you are to challenge yourself and not pushing decisions away just because they’re too difficult to achieve. Creative thinking, teamwork, sensitivity to diversity are also imperative together self-leadership.

The passion demonstrated by Mr Kershaw while telling about his job in the advertising sector and his focus on people rather than just on the money. He showed an advertisement made for an insurance company in Milan that involved the people directly and “used” them as its main media. People, in this case, clients, are the key in this sector and it is all about making sure that they are valued enough.

The relevance he and his company give to people is also showed by the way they value people during the hiring process. Throughout academic experiences, it is often taught that qualifications are everything and that people are what their curricula say. We are usual to divide society into two sectors: the creative people and the entrepreneurial ones.

Nevertheless, creativity is something everybody has and that everybody can learn and developed. Qualifications are important but there will always be something that education can’t and will never be able to provide and that is passion. Passion, complemented by talent, is the only thing that can’t be learned and it is a crucial key to being successful.


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