Can agency takeovers be good news for their clients? The Marketing Society Forum

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WPP's recent acquisition of AKQA and Adam & Eve's DDB merger highlight brand-agency issues.

MAYBE - DUNCAN LEWIS, GROUP MARKETING AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR, AGE UK

In takeover utopia, everything that was good about your agency stays in place, plus added client benefits. These may include greater flexibility, increased strength in depth, a greater range of specialist skills, experience, resources and more negotiating clout on your behalf.

The takeover nightmare sees those things you valued disappear or become diluted. Culture can change and you could find yourself a smaller fish in a much bigger pond of clients. The stars of your account team may disappear.

This can be managed and mitigated, depending on how effectively businesses are integrated, how valued your account is by the agency and how prepared you are to work to realise the potential upside.

 

NO - MICHAEL CUTBILL, MARKETING DIRECTOR, THE AA

Clients have a massive range of agencies to choose from, many of which boast a full range of skills. So it's likely that, if your company has used an agency over a long period, it's because you feel comfortable dealing with it, and it's doing a good job.

Ownership change brings wider change. If an agency is doing well, and has fitted in culturally with its client, change will generally hurt.

Of course, that's not always true.

If you're having an awful time with your agency, then a change of ownership might be a blessing. Then again, if you, the client, are not getting what you want, it shouldn't take an ownership change to act as the trigger to sort out your problem.

 

YES - TOM KNOX, JOINT CHIEF EXECUTIVE, DLKW LOWE

With the obvious exception of conflict clients who suddenly find themselves sharing an agency with competitors, there can certainly be a benefit from the impetus and energy a merger/takeover brings.

When DLKW merged with Lowe we were conscious of the need to stay focused on our clients and minimise internal distractions.

A well-managed takeover provides a great opportunity to refresh the talent pool and offer new challenges.

A newly merged agency knows its competitors will sniff around and try to destabilise its clients, and this should ensure it raises its game and re-dedicates itself to those clients.

 

MAYBE - TIM RYAN, FORMER SENIOR VICE-PRESIDENT, GLOBAL PRIORITIES, CATALOGUE, EMI

The real power of any great agency is the people that work there and the alchemy of their teams.

The challenge for any client of an acquired agency is whether the account team remains intact, the agency's culture and dynamics are retained and allowed to continue, and the client-agency relationship can continue to prosper.

Keep these and the client can benefit or even benefit more from new strengths or synergies of the acquiring agency group.

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