Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Nov 23, 2015

Saatchi & Saatchi denies buying Bysoft despite poaching, phone redirection

SHANGHAI - Confusion hangs over Saatchi & Saatchi China's virtual acquihire of Bysoft China: despite head-hunting its CEO and COO and harvesting more than half its staff, and calls to the ecommerce agency's office redirecting to the giant's phone system, Saatchi & Saatchi denies it has bought the company.

Cyril Drouin is now Saatchi & Saatchi's chief e-commerce officer for Greater China
Cyril Drouin is now Saatchi & Saatchi's chief e-commerce officer for Greater China

Saatchi & Saatchi China has hired Bysoft China CEO Cyril Drouin and COO Christine Wang (王怡隽) to head its ecommerce operations in China. The duo have brought more than half of their former staff with them, hollowing out the Shanghai-based ecommerce digital agency's talent pool to poach a team of 48 digital and ecommerce experts. 

Following the move, which occurred last week but made public today, Drouin takes up the role of chief ecommerce officer for Greater China while Wang has been appointed general manager of ecommerce for Greater China. Both report directly to Saatchi & Saatchi Greater China CEO Michael Lee (李家舜). 

The rest of the incoming team—a hire of an unprecedented scale for the company—have been assigned roles to further upgrade the agency's capabilities in ecommerce, mobile marketing and digital activation. All of them have at least three years of digital-related experience.

Saatchi & Saatchi insists it has not acquired the company. However, when Campaign Asia-Pacific contacted Bysoft for comment, calls to its direct line transferred automatically to Saatchi & Saatchi Shanghai's switchboard. When asked how this might have happened, a source speculated Drouin might have redirected calls in order to poach his former company's new business leads. 

Calls to Drouin's mobile went unanswered, however Wang told Campaign that the phone redirect was an agreed arrangement between the two companies for a period of transition until the end of November. "Cyril and I understood the Bysoft business pretty well, so this was a temporary transition to ensure our own expertise could be transferred to Saatchi & Saatchi," she said.

How Bysoft China's operations will be affected following the mass defection remains unclear. According to the Bysoft official website, the agency had around 100 staff prior to the defection. but Wang said just 20 people remained post-exodus, led by technical director David Li. They are mainly handling remaining business pertaining to backend ecommerce operations, she said.

Lee said the team's collective expertise spanned nearly every facet of internet-based businesses that Saatchi & Saatchi wants to expand its operations to, and cited eMarketer estimates that China's online retail sales (excluding travel and event tickets) would rise 42.1 per cent year-on-year to US$672 billion by the end of 2015.

"This move represents a true digital talent expansion on the grandest scale the agency have ever had in China. It also raises Saatchi & Saatchi's ratio of employees with integrated digital communications capabilities to 55 per cent," Lee said.

For the past year, every member of staff who left Saatchi must be replaced with a digitally experienced person, as part of a new talent policy. Even Lee himself, along with other senior executives, needed to go through 40 hours of digital training this year.

"We value talent in itself, so we are hoping to increase the proportion of Saatchi's own digital talent to achieve digital revenue growth organically," added Lee.

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