Gideon Spanier
Feb 23, 2024

M&C Saatchi to appoint Zaid Al-Qassab as group chief executive

Appointment of Channel 4 CMO to top job is likely to be seen as a surprise because he has not worked in agency sector.

M&C Saatchi to appoint Zaid Al-Qassab as group chief executive

M&C Saatchi has appointed Zaid Al-Qassab, the outgoing chief marketing officer of Channel 4, as the next chief executive of the UK-listed agency group.

A statement to the stock market confirmed the news on Thursday (22 February), after Sky News first reported that M&C Saatchi was close to naming Al-Qassab.

Zillah Byng-Thorne, the executive chairman, told investors in January that the board had appointed headhunters Odgers Berndtson to assist on the search for a CEO, following the departure of company veteran Moray MacLennan after three years in the top job.

Al-Qassab is one of the UK’s most senior marketers who previously worked at BT and started his career at Procter & Gamble.

He has not worked in the agency sector. However, at Channel 4, where he has worked as CMO since 2019, he has overseen in-house agency 4Creative and social media and branded entertainment unit 4Studio, which both report to him.

Channel 4 announced in January that Al-Qassab was leaving but would stay with the business until the end of March. He will join M&C Saatchi on 13 May, subject to regulatory due diligence.

Byng-Thorne said: "We are delighted to have attracted someone of Zaid's calibre to lead M&C Saatchi into its next phase of growth. Zaid has proven leadership qualities, has managed global teams, and his client-centric focus, dynamism and commercial acumen will be highly valuable as we look to accelerate our growth trajectory.
"The advertising and marketing landscape is fast-moving and a modern, forward-thinking, agile leader like Zaid will help shape M&C Saatchi for excellence on the global stage, supported by our exceptional regional leaders across the UK and globally. It is truly an exciting moment for us."
Al-Qassab said: "I have long admired M&C Saatchi's creativity and industry-leading work and I am delighted to be joining one of the most recognised advertising brands in the world.

"I believe M&C Saatchi has a unique growth opportunity, capitalising on its combination of advertising and specialist marketing services, and its unrelenting focus on creative solutions built on client understanding, with an agile, global, integrated offer."

M&C Saatchi noted in its statement that “under Zaid's leadership the broadcaster gained a place as the top brand and number three creative agency in 2023 (Campaign Lists), and he was voted one of the UK's top ten marketers by Campaign in 2023."

Al-Qassab previously worked from 2016 to 2019 as chief brand and marketing officer of BT Group, which is listed on the FTSE-100.

He spent the first 20 years of his career in a number of UK and international roles for Procter & Gamble, including as managing director of the health & beauty division for the UK & Ireland.

Byng-Thorne, the former chief executive of Future, joined as chair in June 2023 and has been keen to shake up M&C Saatchi and improve its creative credentials.

The agency group suffered from a long period of turbulence, which included accounting irregularities in 2019 and the departure of its founders at the start of 2021. The company also received two abortive takeover approaches in 2022.

The share price remains roughly half the 330p level at which it was trading before the accounting problems first emerged in August 2019.

The news comes a week after M&C Saatchi appointed Jo Bacon, the global client lead for Ogilvy and WPP across Unilever, as its new chief executive. She replaces Camilla Kemp, who left the business last year.

Editor’s note: Campaign has updated this story, after originally publishing a version on the evening of 21 February before a formal statement about the CEO appointment to the stock market on the morning of 22 February.

Campaign UK

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