Editorial: Top adman failed to follow his own advice

Kevin Roberts. Photo / Dean Purcell
Kevin Roberts. Photo / Dean Purcell

The description "head coach" on Kevin Roberts' CV is probably one he deeply treasured. For the adman, whose high-flying career this week came unstuck with what he termed "miscommunication", clearly valued his connection with the New Zealand Rugby Union, and the proximity it gave him to players and coaches.

His website proudly notes that Stephen Jones, the caustic British rugby writer, once rated Roberts among the world's most influential figures in the game.

Five years ago, the Saatchi & Saatchi chairman listed a "forward pack" of ideas to give the game in New Zealand a sustainable future. Number seven on his list declared "Bring on the women". "Get their voices heard," pleaded Roberts, adding: "We must listen to them and address their concerns." It was not a lesson he felt was needed in the ad world, because the 66-year-old complained in a now notorious interview about gender equality published last weekend that "the f***ing debate is all over".

He felt agencies misunderstood how women viewed success: "Their ambition is not [vertical]; it's this ... circular ambition to be happy."

A week on, his career as "head coach" with Saatchi's owner, global ad giant Publicis Groupe, is now all over, his departure eased by a $5 million exit deal. A mea culpa statement he issued mentioned a favourite maxim, "Fail fast, fix fast, learn fast". He might have added: leave fast.

- NZ Herald

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