By DOMINIC MILLS, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 31 October 1997 12:00AM
If only we could have made it fit, I would like to have headlined
this column: ’Zenith, part two - in which John Perriss makes a phone
That’s because, as keen readers will remember, in this column three
weeks ago I described Zenith’s forthcoming ownership arrangements as a
bit of a ’bugger’s muddle’ and, in a fit of charity - or foolhardiness
(take your pick) - challenged Lord Perriss of Paddington to pick up the
phone and argue the toss.
This he did, although for various reasons I thought it best to time
publication of his reply with this week’s feature on the global media
shoot-out (page 28). In the best interactive traditions, therefore, I
now bring you ’The World According to Perriss’.
Except that first we should take a quick detour to consider Zenith’s
decision last week to enforce its contract with the former Duchess of
Paddington, Christine Walker. On one level, this is straightforward. At
such a sensitive time, Zenith needs to be seen to protect the interests
of its shareholders. But on another level, it looks shabby, which is
something, given its previous experiences (with certain M&C Saatchi
staff), Cordiant ought by now to understand. Two questions need to be
asked. First, why is Zenith running so scared of a woman who hasn’t yet
got any staff or clients? Second, what will Zenith’s clients think?
Surely they won’t like being told who they can and cannot speak to.
However, while I think this matter makes Zenith look insecure, it does
not necessarily invalidate the main thrust of Perriss’s argument with
me, which is that far from being a disadvantage, having two agency
shareholders is a positive for Zenith because - as the agency world has
belatedly realised - you ain’t nobody without a credible global media
operation. Without access to one, what are Bates and Saatchi other than
creative boutiques? Global, maybe, but still only boutiques.
Now, you can argue that Perriss is only making the best of a bad job
here, but where he and I agree is that five years down the road, there
will probably be only four or five genuinely global media players. The
question then becomes this: will Zenith be one? Perriss, naturally,
believes it will, and he says its heritage means it is at least as well,
if not better placed than nearly all the competition.
How so? Well, as readers of our feature can see, most of the new global
media wannabes are still at embryo stage, both strategically (except
Omnicom and WPP) and operationally. The only ones that genuinely aren’t
- Aegis and CIA - lack a global reach and, so far, an agency partner or
partners with which to do it. Zenith, in Perriss’s terms, has both. It’s
a shame, then, that it is allowing itself to be distracted from its
global ambitions by behaving in a small-minded way in what is
essentially a local dispute.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk