Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, believes the Lovemarks concept he debuted in the mid-2000s is just as pertinent in the present to connect brands with customers given the clutter of the marketplace. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai Kevin Roberts is all for love. Or to be a tad more precise, he's all for ‘Lovemarks'. And the CEO Worldwide at Saatchi & Saatchi has had a thing going for it for some time now.

Lovemarks was the game-changer tactic Roberts came up with for brands to push through the clutter of the marketplace and get a lock on the consumer. The brand would then inspire ‘loyalty beyond reason'. Or leave an indelible lovemark, so to speak.

While the original concept debuted in the mid-2000s and actually helped Roberts' agency to pick up choice accounts, it could still be as valid in the present.

"Budgets are reducing, consumers are expectant, and there's parity across the industry in terms of offerings," said Roberts. "The only difference can be creativity. When budgets are small, creativity goes to town.

"Everyone is concerned with execution. Our clients don't come to us to have meeting after meeting. They're looking for revel-ations and creativity that transform their brands and develop loyalty beyond reason. We need to make things happen to deliver good work on a zero timeframe. It's a challenge we love; it keeps us fresh, targeted, focused on creating Lovemarks for our clients."

Changing times

His mention about shrinking budgets would find a resonance with agency heads in this part of the world. Anyone thinking that the industry had gotten over a bad phase by the end of last year should take another look. As the first quarter of the year winds down, ad campaigns are running for shorter durations and on tighter budgets. The long-drawn-out brand building exercises on massive canvasses are no longer there.

None of this fazes Roberts in his expectations from Saatchi & Saatchi's Middle East network. "The Middle East is an area close to my heart, and I've just enjoyed a wonderful visit to Riyadh for the Global Competitiveness Forum," he said.

"There, I was encouraging a new entrepreneurial spirit, which I think comes naturally to people in this region. It's exciting to marry that with creativity."

And, by extension, more work for his agency. But would the bulk of its business still originate from a global clientele with regional operations?

"International clients will always be a cornerstone of our business in the Middle East as they are in most of our network agencies," Roberts said. "Equally though, we have a strong local client base and we're fully committed to growing these relationships in tandem with our international outlook."

He adds: "My biggest cause for optimism in 2012 is belief in the unreasonable power of creativity. Nothing makes me pessimistic. I'm a radical optimist — it's the only way to be."

Strategy: Acquisition pitch

Saatchi & Saatchi has also been spending a bit of its own cash. It recently acquired The Creative Factory, an agency in Russia.

CEO Kevin Roberts is firmly in support of growing through acquisitions. "The market at the moment supports the acquisition models to utilise existing client rosters and consolidate offerings," Roberts said. "Acquisitions are sound strategy when synergies are good." Indeed, Roberts' abiding strategy has been to seek full ownership rather than alliances. "A few years back we decided that wholly-owned operations would be the best approach for us in the Middle East," he said acknowledging it had worked out well.