Oh dear, Saatchis hit by Green and Flintham breakaway on eve of 40th celebrations

As a piece of timing it’s either inspired or needlessly destructive but the decision by former Fallon founders Laurence Green and Richard Flintham to break away from the now Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon agency on the eve of its famous 40th birthday celebrations is something that could only happen in adland.

So far there’s no news on whether or not their old colleague Robert Senior, now CEO of SSF, is to join them. If he were to to go, and he must be sorely tempted, it really would be an embarrassing disaster.

Green, a planner and the brains of the agency, and creative Flintham are being joined by Phil Rumbol, the former Cadbury marketing director under whose reign Fallon produced the famous ‘gorilla’ ad. And just to show that this is a truly serious venture Steve Waring, the chief financial officer of SSF, is also joining them. So they’re obviously planning to send out some invoices soon.

Whether or not they’ll be allowed to depends largely on the attitude of SSF owner Publicis whose boss Maurice Levy will be less than thrilled by all this. It’s now traditional for holding companies to throw their legal might at breakaways to prevent them pinching clients, as Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP did at Adam & Eve, a breakaway from WPP-owned Y&R. Adam & Eve is believed to have coughed up a cool £1m to get WPP’s lawyers off its back.

As for the new agency, whose moniker will be revealed in Campaign tomorrow (the day of the Saatchi party), it does indeed look a serious player. The Fallon crew, who also worked on Orange and Sony Bravia, were brought into Saatchis to sprinkle some creative dynamism on it and inject energy.

A lot of the energy is ascribed to Senior, who will be feeling the heat one way or the other at the moment.

Maybe the head account man role is slated for Rumbol, who earned numerous plaudits in a long marketing career at, among others, Kraft, Stella Artois and Cadbury.

Rumbol left Cadbury after Kraft, his old firm, took it over in a fiercely contested £11bn bid, saying he didn’t want to relocate to European HQ in Zurich. Presumably he’s still in good odour with his old colleagues, which is another thing for Saatchis to worry about.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.