Tom Holmes talks to Jeremy Sinclair, founding director of M&C Saatchi, about his new book 'Brutal Simplicity of Thought' and the success of the Saatchi brand.

Jeremy was one of the founders of Saatchi & Saatchi, he became chairman of the UK agency in 1982 and was appointed chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi International in 1986. He later became executive creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Worldwide and Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi plc.

M&C Saatchi is a global marketing services business working for clients across a wide variety of industry sectors. The Company was founded in 1995. Starting with a strong base in the UK and Australia, it has added new agencies and disciplines in Asia, USA and Europe, employing over 1,250 staff in 19 countries.

Jeremy Sinclair, Tom Holmes

Jeremy Sinclair talks to creativebrief’s Tom Holmes

TH: What is the secret behind Saatchi’s success and brand endurance?

JS:Brutal Simplicity of Thought

TH: What campaigns best demonstrate the brutal simplicity of thought?

JS: Over the years, in no particular order, Conservative Party, Silk Cut, Dixons, BA at times, launch, our Australian office’s ads for Rentlo, ANZ and Qantas. Vote Conservative Campaign

TH: Why do you think agencies are generally so poor at marketing themselves?

JS:Not sure they are. The idea is to promote the clients.

TH: What other agency brands do you respect and why?

JS:Difficult, there are bits of many that do good stuff.

TH: What’s your secret to winning new business?

JS: You’ve guessed it, BSOT Brutal Simplicity of Thought

TH: What are your thoughts on pitching?

JS:Love it.

TH: How do you increase the odds of success?

JS:Always and only do what you like.

TH: Is there a particular type of client you tend to attract?

JS:Like attracts like. We tend to get clients who like to think the way we do

TH: What have you done that makes you the most proud?

JS: Starting Saatchi & Saatchi, then M&C Saatchi and the work that made Saatchi the brand that it is. Jeremy Sinclair, Tom Holmes

TH: Anything else?

JS:Recently we were thrilled to see our first ever book in print. The company’s exhibition at the V&A last month was also great fun because again, it was our first.

TH: If you were to ask Maurice the same question, what would he say?


TH: What do you hate about the marketing communications industry right now?

JS: The rise of procurement. If I really thought that what we all do for a living could be bought like a sack of potatoes, I’d jack it in. M&C PR Wall

TH: What do you love about the marketing communications industry right now?

JS:The freedom and possibilities that the digital revolution has created. I am writing this for you from a thousand kilometres away, in the sun.

TH: Do you think the marketing’s contribution to society, culture and the economy is understood or appreciated?

JS: Not sure it needs to be. We are supposed to be in the back room, noiselessly sweating away for our clients. How do you create the world’s most powerful nation?

Declaration of Independence

On a single sheet of paper, the most powerful nation in the history of the world was born. Fifty-six men signed the American Dream into scripture. They declared that ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ are the inalienable rights – and that all men are created equal. It was the spark that would drive millions of people to follow their dreams.

TH: If you were responsible for marketing the UK marketing communications industry, what would you say?

JS:You are resting on wilting laurels.

TH: Is your network as big now as you want it to be?

JS:Almost, we can cover most places, but if there is any client requirement to be somewhere, we’re there like a shot. Equally, if there are people out there desperate to start something, they should call us.

TH: What is the difference between starting S&S and starting M&C Saatchi?

JS:This network has been built almost entirely by backing start-ups. We find people who want to be us somewhere and back them. This way we attract people who are naturally entrepreneurial and want to run their own show. No one is here because they were bought. It is a marriage of love not convenience, not arranged or forced by money – although we hope everyone does very well out of it.

TH: Thanks Jeremy

Tom Holmes at M&C Saatchi


Saatchi is still thinking brutally simple

Gideon Spanier 19 Sep 2011

Forget Charles and Maurice Saatchi. Over the last 40-plus years that the brothers' name has dominated British advertising, arguably no one has done more to sustain the Saatchi legend than its top creative, Jeremy Sinclair. From Cramer Saatchi in 1967 to Saatchi & Saatchi in 1970 and the launch of breakaway agency M&C Saatchi in 1995, he has always been there - and still is, long after Charles quit and Maurice eased back. Sinclair is the thoughtful, self-effacing creative who has overseen every key campaign: From the Pregnant Man (for the Health Education Council) and the scissors cutting purple silk (for Silk Cut cigarettes) to "Labour isn't working" (for the Tories) and "The World's Favourite Airline" (British Airways). And then there was "Australians wouldn't give a XXXX for any other lager" (Castlemaine), Tony Blair's Demon Eyes (again for Sinclair's beloved Tories) and more. Now, not before time, Sinclair has produced a book about the agency's creative ethos, entitled Brutal Simplicity of Thought: How It Changed The World, with an introduction by Maurice. There is also an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. This is not a showcase of Saatchi work. The book is loosely based on the agency's staff training manual and looks at how brutally simple but brilliant ideas have changed human life. God, coins, the traffic light and Google are some of the examples. M&C Saatchi, based in Soho's Golden Square, adopted the mantra "brutal simplicity of thought" in 1995 but the concept has been an influence since the very beginning of Saatchi. "It started with a thought from Bertrand Russell, 'the painful necessity of thought'," says Sinclair, referring to the 20th-century philosopher. "The process of getting to it is very much a process of elimination. You've written something and you remove as much as you can without destroying the essence of it. Very often it's your favourite bits that need to go. The brutality is to be brutal with your own foibles and leave the glistening truths of the situation, the problem, the challenge." For Sinclair, inspiration is both verbal and visual. He recalls creating the Pregnant Man, the acclaimed 1969 campaign for contraception. "It's two words and it's visual, so one follows the other. In that particular case, the picture came first and the words a nanosecond later." Sinclair, 64, who trained at Watford Art School, believes the genesis of a great creative idea is mysterious - and should remain so, even in this era when marketers crave research and digital data that they can measure. "The most important thing is you don't know where ideas come from. If you know, it's not creative, it's derivative. When creative people come to me with an idea and say, 'It's a bit like', I send them away." Digital offers countless opportunities yet some things don't change. "The challenge is to come up with a great cracking idea whether you're doing viral work, a 30-second commercial, or whatever." Sinclair may look for brutally simple thinking but the final message doesn't have to be brutal. "Humour is crucial. Once you've got the essence of something, I think you can make the point faster and you can be funnier. David Ogilvy [the legendary ad man] used to say that people don't buy from a clown but nor do they tend to buy from an undertaker." There are plenty of pessimists in ad land at present but Sinclair says: "If you haven't got enough money, then think. The clients, the recession - I don't see them as obstacles to producing great work." M&C Saatchi was never going to bring back the glory days of the 1970s and 1980s. There are now other bigger creative agencies. But Sinclair, in jeans and open-neck shirt, and his co-founders David Kershaw, Bill Muirhead and Maurice, "the three suits", still relish work. The group, which includes public relations and sports marketing, floated on the stock market in 2004 and never wanted to join a giant network such as WPP. Surprisingly for a creative, Sinclair is chairman of the board and proud M&C has grown without big acquisitions. "I regard the building of the company, the philosophy, the office, the stock-market quote, it's all part of the creative process. "I'd encourage any creative person to become numerically literate. If you don't understand the rules, you're going to be ruled." M&C, whose clients include Royal Bank of Scotland, Transport for London, IKEA and the Mail on Sunday, operates in 19 countries. Its new business wins in the UK last year were the highest since 2004. Losing BA was a blow in 2005 but winning back the Tories was sweet just before the 2010 election. He is unapologetic about the anti-Gordon Brown attack ads. "It's the job of the advertising agency to knock the stuffing out of the opposition." Asked to name his favourite ad, he picks "the last one". He explains how old rivals Saatchi & Saatchi have just run a campaign urging New Zealanders to abstain from sex during the Rugby World Cup. That has prompted M&C's local office there to rush out a clever ad, cheekily pointing out it has nothing to do with Saatchi & Saatchi, doesn't think anyone should abstain from sex, and would be delighted to welcome any of its rival's clients. "I look at that," beams Sinclair, "and I'm glad in advertising."

Money Week

Jeremy Sinclair: M&C Saatchi's shadowy guru

Apr 09, 2010

When the Tories appointed M&C Saatchi to gee-up their election campaign, the Labour camp knew only too well what to expect, says Ivan Fallon in The Independent. "They didn't have long to wait." Within days, posters depicting an airbrushed David Cameron had been torn down and replaced by vintage Saatchi advertisements, designed to "tear lumps out of" Gordon Brown. It's an indication of what's to come: the Saatchis don't do positive advertisements at election time. They think they're a waste of space. The current crop of posters bears all the hallmarks of the team that produced that famous 'Labour Isn't Working' poster in 1978. Hardly surprising, given that they're the product of the same creative brain, Jeremy Sinclair. Within ad circles, Sinclair is one of the most widely respected creatives in the business, notes Campaign. But his public profile is less than zero. If he is known at all, it is for the uncanny resemblance he bears to Norman Tebbit. The Saatchis' hidden asset is a complex, intellectual and private man, who "always seemed at odds with the brothers' barnstorming style", says Fallon. Yet he has never worked for an agency that didn't have the Saatchi name on the door, and is responsible for some of its most iconic work – including the breakthrough 'pregnant man' campaign that heralded the agency's birth in 1970. Who, then, is this "most loyal of Saatchi loyalists"? Listing his interests as "spiritualism, architecture and Conservative politics", Sinclair has never been on the Soho lunch circuit. Born in Newcastle in 1946, he had no qualifications beyond a copywriting diploma from the Watford School of Art when he turned up for a job at the forerunner of Saatchi & Saatchi in 1968. "Come back, but don't stop taking the dole yet," the young Charles Saatchi told him. But Sinclair turned out to be the perfect foil to his mercurially brilliant boss, says Campaign. Sinclair's great skill "was knowing how Charles' wildest ideas could be realised". He also brought a calming influence to the agency. The explosive Charles had a habit of tearing up work he didn't like and hurling it round the office in a shower of expletives. Sinclair was never heard raising his voice. Meanwhile, the great advertisements kept coming: Sinclair was the moving force behind memorable campaigns for Silk Cut and BA and rose rapidly within the agency. He was deputy chairman when, in 1994, a board rebellion secured the ousting of Maurice and Charles Saatchi. But there was no doubt where his loyalties lay, says The Mail on Sunday. During the acrimonious split, Sinclair was one of three key "musketeers" who came out in support of the brothers and defected to their new agency, M&C. Three years later, he devised the notorious "Demon eyes" campaign for the Tories as they sought to take the shine off Tony Blair. That campaign reinforced M&C Saatchi's reputation as the Rottweiler of political advertising and it outraged Blair. "It is nasty, it is vicious, it is negative. It is all the things that you would expect from the Conservative party," he said. The next few weeks will be very interesting. Can advertising agencies outwit the spoofers? It is no coincidence that the return of M&C Saatchi coincided with the "first whiff of genuine excitement" about the election, says Gideon Spanier in the Evening Standard. "M&C Saatchi are always capable of causing a political dust-up [and] it seems likely they will be going for the jugular this time," notes PR man Mark Borkowski in his blog. Saatchi research has identified the PM's "two-faced" personality and record as the weakest links in the Labour armour. Hence the poster campaign, depicting a smiling Brown with savage captions, such as "I caused record youth unemployment, vote for me". This approach has worked in the past, but will it still be effective in the internet age? This election will be dominated by a battle between the Mad Men in suits and the internet spoofers, agrees Stephen Bayley in The Times. "The big challenge for advertisers may be to make political advertisements so ironic and satirical that they cannot be appropriated by bloggers and viralists," he states. Yet efforts to tap the creative power of the internet can backfire – as Labour has found out, says The Sunday Express. "Don't let him take Britain back to the 1980s" was the intended message of a mocked-up poster of Cameron, posing as the un-PC detective Gene Hunt from the Ashes to Ashes TV series. Yet Hunt is a "cult hero", observes Roland Watson in The Times. The Tories lost no time in adapting his catchphrase: "Fire up the Quattro, it's time for change", which became an instant internet hit. There was particular mirth among Tory strategists that Labour chose to launch the campaign in Basildon, "home to a million Gene Hunts".

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