This may sound easier said than done. Saatchis has struggled in the region over the last few years. In the past 12 months alone, the agency has lost a number of significant accounts, including Singapore Navy, Tiger Beer and David Jones in Australia. Unsurprisingly, Foster does not want to dwell greatly on the past, but acknowledges that there is room to improve. “We’re not where we should be,” he said, putting part of the blame on the recent economic slowdown. “The weaknesses are the result of the economic climate”.
Foster has been with Publicis Groupe for over 15 years, including stints as CEO for Saatchi & Saatchi Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, and a global role with that network’s Procter & Gamble account. Most recently, he headed up Publicis Groupe sister company Fallon in Minneapolis, US, turning the agency around to enjoy 75 per cent growth at a time when the wider industry was shrinking.
He said he did not actively seek out the Singapore-based role – as he had done with Fallon – but points out that it was in line with his desire for new and interesting challenges. “This appointment came up – and it felt really right. It fits my skill set.”
Having arrived in Singapore on 1 June, Foster has spent much of the past week getting to know his new team, clients and region. “There’s been a heck of a lot of listening,” he said.
Now, he is ready to outline priorities for the agency and its staff. “The fundamental goal is to restore leadership,” he added. “(Developing) breakthrough creative is also at the top of the agenda,” he adds.
The third goal, and the one that Foster’s tenure will ultimately be measured on, is growth. “That’s a by-product of the other two. If we are meeting all of our clients’ needs, the growth will happen.”
Foster says Saatchis won’t be specifically targeting any particular clients, including those big accounts that it has lost in recent years. “It’s not that surgical,” he commented. “Doing what’s right is what’s going to create growth.”
He points out, though, that the agency still has some significant strengths to leverage upon, including what he describes as the “strongest” brand name in the industry and a broad range of ongoing clients.
“Our client base is phenomenal,” he said. With major brands in the automotive (Toyota Lexus), packaged goods (parts of Procter & Gamble), foodstuffs (Kraft/ Cadbury) and technology (Lenovo) sectors, he said Saatchi & Saatchi in Asia has “all of the pillars that make an agency great”.