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Back Chat: M&C Saatchi's Tom Bazeley on why the industry needs more 'chutzpah'

The last page of each issue of The Drum is devoted to catching up with an industry figure to chew the fat and find out what’s pushing their buttons. This fortnight we drop in on the new CEO of M&C Saatchi, Tom Bazeley, who says the industry needs an injection of chutzpah.

So, how are you and what’s keeping you busy?

I was made chief exec of M&C Saatchi three months ago so I’ve been extremely busy trying to figure out how a company this size operates, speaking to all my new clients and staff and trying to get a measure of the place. To say that’s a full-time job would be a classic British understatement.

What’s your biggest gripe at the moment?

On one hand, as a creative agency there’s never been a better time to do what we do because there’s so much opportunity for an idea to be expressed in lots of different ways. My gripe is that sometimes an idea can get diluted or complicated by trying to express it in so many different ways.

At the moment it feels like clients want to see an idea working across 16 channels, when actually I think we should be focusing on making the idea brilliant. I think there’s a slight confusion in the industry about that.

Also, I commute from out in the sticks everyday so I’m coming to the end of a five-month period without any light – I feel like I’ve been indoors for five months.

Likewise, what are you loving?

I feel like my career has been reset and I’m learning a brand new set of things. Out of work, my wife bought me a boat for my 40th which I can’t get enough of at the moment, bobbing around in the English Channel trying to catch fish. I can bear about two or three hours in it…

What would you change if you were prime minister and/or had unlimited resources?

I would brief and sign off on the most incredible series of advertising for the Conservative Party that has ever been, because the way the party and David Cameron communicate with the electorate in the run up to the election will be one of the deciding factors.

If there was one thing I could change about the industry, it would be to get everyone to wake up to how fortunate we are that we can carve out a decent living from selling stuff.

Which ad do you wish you had worked on?

The HHCL campaign for Tango was a trailblazer so if I could have worked on one single ad I think it would have been the blackcurrant Tango French exchange – an amazing TV ad. It must have been totally fucking chaos to produce, with so many unknowns, so many risks and it being so different and odd. I imagine all that chaos got channelled into this one amazing bit of film.

Who is your biggest hero in advertising?

Bill Bernbach. My first job was at BMPinteraction, part of the DDB Group, and they used to distribute these little Bernbach books full of amazing quotes and wisdom.

In the heat of pitch process or a tricky situation with a client, you’ve got to remind yourself of the simplicity that should be prevalent in our industry, and Bill Bernbach is very, very good at that.

Outside of the industry, who inspires you?

My grandfather – he was a professor and helped design aeroplanes. He had an unbelievable sense of confidence about him which was a big influence when I was growing up. He was also completely cantankerous, which one day I hope to be!

Where else do you find inspiration?

It doesn’t come from art galleries or reading blogs on marketing. It comes from standing outside the pub chatting to people, and hearing the anecdotes and stories people have. When you sit a creative team down and they present an idea, it’s not often that they don’t start with ‘did you ever hear about the person that did this?’ – that type of inspiration is the most important.

And finally, what’s your last word on the industry?

The industry needs to get its confidence back. As a whole we can be too apologetic. We need to have belief in what we’re good at, and go about our business with a lot more chutzpah than we have in the last seven years.

This feature was first published in the 18 February issue of The Drum.

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