Big blow for M&C as Saatchi & Saatchi reverses one-way traffic with £46m Direct Line win

Ouch, this one must hurt a bit.

Unknown-3Travellers through Golden Square in Soho today might be advised to wear a tin hat in case of flying objects (possibly including people) from M&C Saatchi’s splendiferous HQ (left) at the top of the square.

The agency, which recently reported some pleasing financial numbers thank to its diversified portfolio of companies, most notably in CRM, has lost the £46m Direct Line insurance account after ten years to…Saatchi & Saatchi. Historically the account traffic has usually been the other way.

M&C Saatchi was formed 20 years ago when Saatchi & Saatchi shareholders booted out CEO Maurice Saatchi and he and brother Charles, Jeremy Sinclair, Bill Muirhead, David Kershaw and Moray McLennan decamped to Golden Square with the British Airways and Dixons accounts. BA quit for BBH some years ago while Dixons left for AMV/BBDO last year.

Even so, M&C is much bigger than Saatchi and Saatchi (now owned by Publicis Groupe) in London these days. But losing Dixons (which also bills about £40m) and Direct Line in the space of six months is a double whammy any agency could do without.

The news will be doubly welcome for Saatchi & Saatchi, which has had a ropey couple of years itself in London. Last year it lost supermarket Asda (billing around £100m) to VCCP and was in danger of becoming little more than a network outpost, handling the London bits of big PG accounts. EMEA CEO Robert Senior, will have pulled out all the stops to win Direct Line.

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