NEWSMAKER/DAN SNYDER: Acquisitive entrepreneur setting sights on Europe - Dan Snyder is on the way to making his company a global force

By JOHN TYLEE, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 11 December 1998 12:00AM

The ink is barely dry on the Partners BDDH takeover deal and Dan Snyder, chairman of Snyder Communications, is already making plans. An interactive agency and a media independent are just some of the other items on his UK shopping list.

The ink is barely dry on the Partners BDDH takeover deal and Dan

Snyder, chairman of Snyder Communications, is already making plans. An

interactive agency and a media independent are just some of the other

items on his UK shopping list.



So when can we expect the next takeover? ’We’ll be active within the

next six months,’ he says. That’s a very short time. ’Six months to me

is a lifetime.’



Snyder is a man in a hurry - he made an offer for Partners BDDH within

three days of seeing its figures. The image of him presented in the

handout photographs - a bespectacled, clean-cut executive wearing what

one UK adman calls a ’Hi honey, I’m home’ smile - couldn’t be more

deceptive.



Snyder is rarely home. The scale of his ambition is such that he works

14 hours a day, seven days a week at his office in Bethesda,

Maryland.



His senior executives are free to call him any time, day or night. His

wife and two small daughters see him on Sunday afternoons - if they’re

lucky.



Nine years ago he was running a magazine circulating on student

campuses. Today, aged 33, the New Yorker without a college degree chairs

a publicly quoted dollars 558 million communications company employing

8,000 people and with 150 of the Fortune 500 companies as his clients.

He owns the 19th-largest US agency and also the 32nd-biggest in the UK.

Now his sights are set firmly on Europe.



Comparisons are already being drawn between Snyder Communications and

WPP, with Synder himself being depicted as the next generation’s Martin

Sorrell.



While both share a restrained nature, a conservative style and an

obsessive interest in stock values, those who know Snyder play down the

similarities. They point out that while Sorrell has built his

communications empire from the top down, Snyder is growing his from the

bottom up. Above-the-line work still only accounts for 20 per cent of

Snyder’s revenue.



But associates say that although Snyder has a vision, it isn’t a

definitive one. It would be risky to bet against him bidding for a major

worldwide network one day - Leo Burnett is among those mentioned. ’We

aren’t in discussions with anyone,’ Snyder insists. ’But I would never

say never.’



Once an anonymous direct marketing company, Snyder Communications stands

on the threshold of becoming a significant global player. Its chairman

has an eye for an acquisition and for the people whose talent he

believes his resource will allow to flourish.



Of Nigel Long, chairman of Partners BDDH, who will head his European

operations, Snyder says: ’He knows he can run an agency of 100 people.

We believe he can run an organisation of 1,000.’



For their part, the agencies that have joined the Snyder stable are

being made to feel they are playing a part in building a new and

different organisation, rather than playing second fiddle within a more

traditional one.



Ed Eskandarian, chairman of Boston-based Arnold Communications, which

became Snyder’s first above-the-line acquisition for dollars 120 million

only nine months ago, says: ’Dan isn’t like Omnicom or Interpublic. He

isn’t just buying agencies and trying to piece them together. We were

always going to be the central focus of his creative services business.

He’s exactly what we were looking for.’



Long also welcomes Snyder’s inclusive approach. ’Dan has none of the

pomposity you find in traditional agencies,’ he says. ’He’s very open

and is on the way up.’



Snyder’s rise has been both fast and phenomenal. Diversifying from

publishing in the late 80s, his company has grown rapidly over the past

decade, mainly by helping drugs companies market to doctors and hospital

patients and by distributing product samples for operations such as

Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Kellogg.



It also built a range of marketing offerings from direct marketing for

telecommunications companies to database and salesforce management, PR

and design.



The move into traditional advertising - first planned 18 months ago -

was the outcome of Snyder’s frustration at being unable to go all the

way with clients who wanted to go above the line. Too often, he claims,

his company would be forced to stand aside, only to watch helplessly as

another agency screwed up. The answer: buy an agency of his own.



Arnold provided the solution. A strong creative reputation coupled with

a dollars 870 million-billing client list including Volkswagen,

McDonald’s and Mobil had attracted interest from some famous suitors.

What’s more, the agency knew it would have to sell if national and

international expansion plans were to be fulfilled and stockholders

wanting their money were to be satisfied.



Snyder was hardly known to Eskandarian when he took his call but he was

hugely impressed by their first meeting. ’I could see that here was a

young man who would make things happen,’ he recalls.



Did he have any misgivings about assigning the agency’s fate to someone

whose credentials were exclusively below the line? ’I saw it as

positive.



We knew Snyder could provide the kind of client services we never

could.



Also, because Dan doesn’t know our business, he doesn’t try to run it

for us.’



Long also found Snyder’s appeal seductive. ’Others we spoke to only

seemed to want our help in tying up some loose ends. While they wanted

us as a second- or third-string operation, Dan is creating something we

feel part of.’



Snyder believes that starting with a clean slate gives him the

flexibility established agency networks lack. ’It’s easier to launch a

new methodology than change an old one,’ he states. ’It’s also

smarter.’



In many ways, the alliance between Arnold and Partners BDDH will mirror

that of Snyder’s two major direct marketing subsidiaries - Blau

Marketing and the UK company, Brann. Eskandarian says he has two clients

who have indicated a willingness to work internationally with the group.

And given that 40 per cent of Snyder’s income comes from drugs

manufacturers, attempts to exploit the booming global healthcare market

seem certain.



However, it’s one thing to build a marketing empire, quite another to

integrate it to achieve the one-stop-shop offering to which many groups

aspire. It’s early days but the omens are good. In October, the Fleet

financial group, America’s tenth-largest and an Arnold client, put its

dollars 100 million direct marketing business up for pitch, enabling

Blau to grab a chunk of it.



Snyder already sees clear synergy between his two agency

acquisitions.



’Arnold has been the underdog that has managed to succeed despite its

disadvantages. We like that and we see the same terrific combination of

talent and clients at Partners BDDH.’



Certainly, we can expect to see some imminent muscle-building.

Eskandarian, to whom Long will report, promises new full-service offices

for Arnold in San Francisco and New York to complement existing ones in

Boston, Washington and Richmond, Virginia. But the addition of a UK

outpost has established broader horizons. ’Our goal is to expand across

Europe,’ he says.



Whether or not this will be through Elan - the six-member ’club’ of

independent agencies to which Partners BDDH belongs - remains to be

seen. While Elan may provide a short-term solution, the long-term one

may lie beyond the existing membership. ’We’ll want to talk to the Elan

agencies to see if they are like-minded,’ Eskandarian says. ’If they’re

not, we’ll look elsewhere.’



As for Snyder, you’re left wondering how the self-confessed workaholic

can keep up the punishing pace. He hints at a possible eventual slowdown

when he talks of between five and ten years of accumulated growth ’while

my kids are still babies’.



In the meantime, Eskandarian is just thankful to have him in the driving

seat. ’I would never be surprised at anything Dan may accomplish,’ he

says. ’I’m just glad he’s on our side.’



Editor’s Comment, p23.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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