01 April 1999

THE FURORE OVER A COSY DINNER à deux between New Zealand prime minister Jenny Shipley and Saatchi & Saatchi’s global chief executive, Kevin Roberts, has culminated in the agency’s dismissal from the New Zealand Tourism Board account - ostensibly because 'it required a level of funding outside the Board’s budget and was failing to meet marketing objectives'.

In reality, however, the decision stemmed from the bitter political row over the circumstances in which Saatchi was appointed to the account and the way in which it allegedly slanted its work to create a ‘feelgood’ ethos favourable to the re-election of Shipley’s government. Shipley assured the NZ parliament last month that she and Roberts - a 'close personal friend' - had discussed neither tourism nor advertising contracts when they dined. However, Roberts’ recall of their table talk differed; he said so publicly, but later retracted his statement.

Despite working on the [largely responsive] account for eight months and producing an international campaign launched in London in January, Saatchi has yet to receive a single penny in payment. The agency is now said to be consulting its legal advisors.