Katherine Levy: Nice to see a client urge collaboration over competition

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There have been some interesting rumours doing the rounds recently about Procter & Gamble and Unilever.

It all began with speculation that Publicis, which services the FMCG giants L'Oreal and P&G, was making a play for Unilever. If you haven't heard this one already, then you may need a moment to recover from shock. It has been said that Publicis is involved in the pitch for Unilever's North American business, as part of the market-by-market review being held separately to the global communications planning process. A second rumour then began to circulate that P&G was mightily upset about Publicis going for its biggest competitor and that the client was demanding that Publicis create a separate unit (some even said agency) in which to service its business.

Strange, considering that as anyone who has worked for Publicis knows, P&G has always been kept as a segregated client in its own P&G towers. For many years, P&G staff were kept behind doors with codes on because the client wanted absolute confidentiality. And for the past five years, ZenithOptimedia's P&G team has even been working in its very own office on London's Chitty Street, two streets away from the agency.

But the talk doesn't stop there. For over at Publicis' Starcom MediaVest Group, which also handles P&G, its chief executive, Stewart Easterbrook, is in the process of hiring for the newly created position of managing director of P&G - a role completely separate to the currently vacant managing director post of Starcom. This appears to have triggered the other rumour doing the rounds: that P&G could look to consolidate its UK media, currently split between SMG, ZenithOptimedia and MediaCom.

This, sources close to the business say, is nonsense. For at least a year now, P&G has been looking at ways for its agencies to work more closely together. But this is not driven by a desire for consolidation, rather to have its roster working to a common P&G goal, sharing insight and strategy. It is a process that Derek Morris, the chief operating officer at VivaKi, has been overseeing, as he is very much focused on P&G.

In May last year, Publicis created the umbrella approach P&G Unite, bringing together SMG, ZenithOptimedia and Digitas for regular meetings to ensure each agency servicing P&G was on the same page. The gesture was even extended to MediaCom's P&G press buyers when they were invited to the Publicis and P&G Christmas party - something practically unheard of in this competitive industry.

How refreshing that when so many clients have their heads in the accounts plotting consolidation, we hear of one seeking consolidation of another kind - a bringing together of all insights and planning ideas so that the sum is greater than their individual parts.

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