Interviews

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Shoppers are looking for value and demanding service and business transparency

7 Mins

Name: 

Rachelle Headland

Role and company: 

Managing director of Saatchi & Saatchi X

Employee numbers: 

60

Growth forecast for the next three years:

Double the size of the agency through new and organic growth. We are committed to delivering a premium, specialised service that builds our clients’ businesses.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

Saatchi & Saatchi X is shopper marketing. We have specialised in this space for 15 years, delivering pioneering shopper work and processes for the world’s leading brands and retailers. We have a passion for delivering shopper marketing that is innovative and effective, a combination that transforms our clients’ businesses, brands and reputations.

What’s the big vision for your business?

To be the world’s pre-eminent shopper marketing agency. There are a lot of agencies in this space now, but there are very few who can deliver shopper with the depth and flair that we do.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations: 

In the UK 70 per cent of our business is international business. This allows us to be upstream of the conversation, and shopper must be part of the strategy from the outset if it is to work. The challenge can be keeping hold of that strategic intent through to implementation. Saatchi & Saatchi X will continue to open offices where there is a client need, and each office will continue to work with international clients. Shopper is a dynamic and fast-growing industry and innovation is happening all around the world.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it: 

I was promoted very early in my career to account director. While I was good at the mechanics of the work, there was still a lot to learn about working with and leading other people. Success is a team effort and collaboration is incredibly important to delivering the best work to our clients. 

Getting a diverse set of ideas and thinking enables us to bring the most innovative, creative solutions to our clients’ challenges. If your team is committed to the organisation’s vision and they know that you, as the leader, are committed to helping them also be successful, then the credit takes care of itself. It is a lot more fun to celebrate as a team than alone.

What makes you mad in business today?

Complacency. The UK advertising industry is spoilt for choice with the talent and opportunity around us and yet we seem to have lost our bold, entrepreneurial spirit. We should be at our bravest and boldest when the economic climate is as tough as it is now, especially as we have so much competition from other markets and industries – and our clients – with regard to attracting the best talent. We should be investing in the future and inspiring through innovation.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

Stores must deliver an experience that is cohesive with their brand message and seamlessly integrated with their online channel. It is a very exciting time to be in retail and shopper marketing. Nowhere has technology had more of a bearing than on the way people shop, when they shop, and how they gather information. Retailers are considering all aspects of how they operate, from the size of their bricks and mortar footprint to their online presence. Shoppers are looking for value and demanding service and business transparency. We need to give them ways to cut through the clutter and make decisions. That is shopper marketing.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

I believe independent agencies and entrepreneurs are finding that pretty challenging right now. We are part of a worldwide network and the current volatile market means there is pressure on agency leaders to manage costs and minimise risks to their business by keeping within acceptable cost to revenue ratios. 

If there is no investment ahead of revenues the only way to improve the situation is to drive new business and growth. One thing the agency world is very good at is being flexible and adaptable to ever-changing client needs, so providing we’re keeping clients happy that should mean we’re keeping the bank and other stakeholders happy too. Then we can invest quickly when we need to – primarily in people.

How would others describe your leadership style?

I think leadership styles continue to evolve – mine certainly does. My goal is to be a pragmatic and engaged leader who is committed to great talent, great work and to help build a great agency. The dynamics of the workplace and workforce have changed, and while your values remain constant and consistent, your methods of communication and leadership must evolve in order to connect with your team. It is a process!

Your biggest personal extravagance?

A 1996 special edition Jaguar XJS. I loved that car.

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

Celebrate innovation, continue to encourage established businesses to provide consultancy and services free of charge for start up businesses, ensure banks are given quotas to meet with regard to investment in SMEs and enforce them.

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