M&C Saatchi Talk restructures as MD Chris Hides joins The Academy

M&C Saatchi Talk managing director Chris Hides is leaving to join The Academy in the same role – leading to a new senior appointment and restructure at the former agency, PRWeek can reveal.

Chris Hides: 'I have long admired the quality of the work that The Academy produces'
Chris Hides: 'I have long admired the quality of the work that The Academy produces'

Hides' role at M&C Saatchi Talk isn't being replaced. Instead, the agency has hired a head of consumer and is looking for a head of creative strategy, while 'upweighting' existing department leads.

Hides – an M&C Saatchi veteran of 16 years who helped oversee the merger of M&C Saatchi PR and sister agency Talk.Global to form M&C Saatchi Talk this spring – will leave for his new role toward the end of this year.

He will report to The Academy co-founders Mitch Kaye and Dan Glover "and help us to run all aspects of the agency on a day-to-day basis", Kaye told PRWeek.

He said: “When Dan and I set up The Academy, we did so with an ambition to bring the best brains under one roof. Chris is someone we’ve known for some time and admired from a distance. He is certainly someone who we feel can help us grow the agency.

“He is committed to delivering the best creative work, gets involved with his clients' work and is passionate about helping his teams learn and develop. Chris will bring a strategic brain, great experience and strong leadership to The Academy, which is really good news for our team and, of course, our clients. We are really excited to work with him.”

Hides said: “After 16 incredible years at M&C Saatchi I have decided it’s time to move on. I will forever be grateful to M&C Saatchi for the opportunities it has given me, the most rewarding of which was setting up and launching M&C Saatchi PR. I leave having recently completed the merger and launched M&C Saatchi Talk, which will, I have no doubt, go on to achieve great things.

“I have long admired the quality of the work that The Academy produces and they were always one of the names you wouldn’t want to come up against in a pitch. They have some brilliant people and an enviable client list, led by Mitch and Dan, who have built a very successful business. They also have the freedom that comes with being an independent agency and bring a true entrepreneurial zeal with extensive industry experience. As they look to the future I can see that there is a role for me to bring something extra and I am really looking forward to helping them, and the rest of the team, write the next chapter for the agency."

Former Academy MD Ella Dorley-Brown left the agency last November and recently co-founded the firm Where Eagles Dare.

Recent wins by The Academy have included Pret, with a brief to launch its in-store coffee subscription service. In June The Academy hired Sean Allen-Moy as a director from W Communications, where he was head of W Enterprise.

Revenue at The Academy grew six per cent in 2019 to £4.4m, with 48 people at the year-end, according to the PRWeek UK Top 150 Consultancies table.

M&C Saatchi Talk restructure

Lucy Swan, formerly head of brand at Porter Novelli, joined M&C Saatchi Talk last week in the new position of head of consumer. She also joins the six-strong board.

M&C Saatchi Talk chief executive Jane Boardman described Swan, formerly managing partner and creative director at Clarion, as "a big-hitter". Boardman told PRWeek that instead of replacing Hides directly, the agency has chosen to "upweight the consumer team".

Consumer accounts for about half its income, and Hides' role has included a lot of client-facing and creative strategy work. To strengthen in these areas, the agency is also interviewing for a new head of creative strategy. That, in part, replaces the global head of strategy role previously occupied by Chris Brown, who in May moved to Amazon to oversee social media, content and data in EMEA.

In addition, other heads of departments at M&C Saatchi Talk will be given full P&L responsibility for their divisions.

Boardman described the departure of Hides – former managing director of M&C Saatchi PR, who co-founded that agency with Molly Aldridge in 2012 – as "incredibly amicable".

Boardman, who was chief executive of Talk.Global prior to the merger, said: "We didn't want him to leave – we tried to make him stay. He thought long and hard about it, but I think after about 16 years he's decided to move on. I think he feels he's done his bit to get the merger settled and to get the team together. He's been really involved in creating our new proposition and he's been a really powerful force in bringing us all together."

Boardman said income at the agency "halved overnight" in the immediate aftermath of the lockdown in late March, but trading had since recovered. "We are not quite up to March levels, but we are spitting distance from it," she stated.

All staff are now back up to full salary, having taken a 20 per cent pay cut after the pandemic hit, Boardman said. Twenty people were on furlough and seven have been made redundant at the agency, which employs about 50 people and generated UK revenue of £7.2m in 2019.

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