Advertising does not make the world go round for Kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi. His world revolves round creative ideas, writes Rhymer Rigby.
'Advertising does not fascinate me, OK. What fascinate me are ideas,' says Kevin Roberts, chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi. Just as well really, because Soho advertising mainstays are not his thing. He doesn't belong to a club or 'do' lunch, or network or go to dinners - 'any of that crap,' as he puts it. 'I don't really spend any time in the business world at all.'
Instead, his ideas are driven by the aesthetic. He is passionate about his art collection of mainly '60s pop art - Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenburg, Roy Lichtenstein, 'that kind of stuff.' As might be expected of a man with loft apartments on the Thames and in New York's SoHo, he is fascinated by form.
'I love interior design. I love chairs, so all these are going, as you can imagine,' he says, gesturing towards inherited '80s black leather yuppie perches that dot the office. They will make way for Philippe Starck creations.
To the British way of thinking, which tends to separate the sporty slob from the culturally aware, it may seem a little odd that Roberts' other great love is sport - in particular, rugby; more specifically, the All Blacks. He used to play and looks the part. Again, it is all about passion.
'You have to be very passionate to get the shit kicked out of you every Sunday, and I like that,' he says.
It is also about aesthetics. 'Jonah Lomu, I think, is an incredible piece of drama and theatre. It could be ballet. It could be theatre. It could be rugby. It doesn't matter - what you see is incredible athleticism.'
Sport carries over into business. Roberts is co-authoring a book about business success with a colleague from New Zealand's University of Wiakhatta, where he teaches leadership. Having found too few 'success models' in the corporate world, however, they turned to sport. 'We looked at the great sporting dynasties over the last 20 years,' Roberts says, from the Germany's football team and 'hanging with Michael Jordan' to Australia's women's netball team. The pair talked to everyone from players to fans to receptionists - 'to find out the things these organisations really do differently'. Sport, he elaborates, works as a metaphor 'because people are competitive and it's all about personal best'. It beats the old business metaphor of war: 'I wouldn't go to fight in a war - I mean, would you?
Intellectually, it's ridiculous.'
Roberts divides his time between London, New York and New Zealand - at least one week every month in each. It is fortunate he is a fan of travel: indeed his wife runs a travel company.
'I think this transglobal thing is great. I can refresh myself in New Zealand among family and friends (being from the north of England I'm family-focused).' The two cities, on the other hand, 'are where it's happening - fashion, art, poetry and music.
'They're coming from the streets of New York and London nowadays. No disrespect, but if it were Swindon and Milwaukee I'm not sure I'd be quite so excited.' The other week in the month is spent with his wife, whose business takes her all over the place. 'I'm real interested in that, too.'
'But basically - travel, aesthetics, sport, business, advertising and family - I just love anything creative.' This passion for ideas, along with being a sort of team 'coach' for Saatchi's, is what he's there for.
Well, that and 'to start getting some good news in the press for a change'.