Kevin Roberts, 64, has been the chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi since 1997. Before that, the British executive worked at Procter & Gamble and Pepsi. He published a book on brand theory, “Lovemarks,” in 2004. In 2015, he will become the executive chairman of the Saatchi Fallon Group, where he will be drumming Publicis Group executives into shape in his capacity as “head coach.”
Handelsblatt: Mr. Roberts…
Kevin Roberts: Please, call me Kevin.
Kevin, how does it feel to shoot a beverage vending machine to pieces with a machine gun on a stage?
Business is a blood sport. But seriously, it was a high-profile dinner with 56 Canadian Pepsi bottlers in the midst of the toxic debate over the free trade agreement with the United States. I was in favor of free trade, and Pepsi’s market share had just shot ahead of Coca-Cola’s in Canada for the first time. There were TV crews at the dinner, and I just couldn’t resist the opportunity.
So what did you do?
When I mentioned a pre-arranged key word in my speech, workers brought one of competitor Coca-Cola’s vending machines onto the stage. Then I reached under the lectern, pulled out a machine gun and shot the damn thing to pieces. And it all happened during prime time on TV.
Your planned merger with Omnicom fell apart in the spring, but we are seeing other mergers in the market. Why is size so important in the advertising industry?
Because the balance of power in the global media and advertising world is being completely realigned. All around us, major media companies are consolidating their business. And then you have the new giants, like Google, Facebook and Instagram.
How can Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis keep up?
Since we can’t solve the size problem through a merger, our answer is speed. We have to be much become faster in everything we do. If we can’t be the biggest, we have to be the fastest and the most flexible.