OPINION: EDITOR’S COMMENT

By STEFANO HATFIELD, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 11 December 1998 12:00AM

Three years ago, it felt like Campaign rang Butterfield Day Devito Hockney every week about rumours about deals. Back then, in the wake of serious loss of business from Honda and BT, other clients reviewing and discord among the partners, it appeared to need a rescue package.

Three years ago, it felt like Campaign rang Butterfield Day Devito

Hockney every week about rumours about deals. Back then, in the wake of

serious loss of business from Honda and BT, other clients reviewing and

discord among the partners, it appeared to need a rescue package.



So, meeting an exhausted but relaxed Nigel Long to learn about Partners

BDDH’s surprise deal with Snyder Communications was reassuringly

positive. The eminently decent Long has, along with Leslie Butterfield

and the other partners, turned an unhappy and lilting ship around. BDDH

was one of the few independent agencies left worth buying.



Winning Mercedes, Emirates, the Co-op’s retail arm and the Guardian are

the more public achievements along with retaining several clients in

re-pitches. Upping the creative standard under John Dean and Simon Green

is another - even if some work still lacks the ’wow!’ factor. The

Guardian is particularly disappointing.



Yet the behind-the-scenes achievements are greater. Butterfield Day was

an agency that was going nowhere - other than into the lucrative arms of

a desperate American multinational.



Sorting out the new partnership arrangement to leave Derek Day happily

writing for the creative directors, rejuvenating the staff, making the

most of Butterfield’s skills and setting up ventures like Partners

Andrews Aldridge and the MSc media strategy company constitutes a major

achievement.



This success led to a happier conundrum; the one common to all

successful, local agencies in the late 90s marketplace. How do you avoid

being squeezed between the international goliaths and the local

hotshops? It was very pres-sing for BDDH because Elan - its association

of supposedly like-minded European agencies - hasn’t really

delivered.



The Snyder deal appears a classic cerebral BDDH solution. ’We have

forfeited jam today for jam tomorrow,’ was Long’s comment on the share

swap. Well, it is worth noting that the value of an investment may go

down as well as up.



In the short- to mid-term, that’s unlikely. The 33-year-old (bastard!)

Dan Snyder is currently on a roll. Even so, his meteoric rise to a

dollars 550 million income empire within nine years may send shivers

down the spine of anyone compos mentis enough to recall the 80s.



But Wall Street is kinder to media stocks than the City, largely because

Omnicom and the Interpublic Group have delivered consistent returns on

investment. The trick is to keep making deals. Say you’re going to

acquire, then do it.



Snyder is not in the 100-plus deals a year league of John Wren and Phil

Geier - yet. But he is fascinating for growing a global business from

the direct and healthcare sectors up. They’re the two areas (along with

new media) on which the big three groups (including WPP) are focusing

much of their attentions - not least because of the in-roads that can be

made with so many new blue-chip clients.



Snyder is still too unknown a quantity to make any definitive judgments

about. But he is a coming force, and we will hear a lot more about him

in the UK. The Partners BDDH deal appears to be refreshingly intriguing.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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