SPOTLIGHT ON: MERGERS - Troullides’ resignation gives the lie to takeover platitudes/Merger puff about synergy has little weight in the real world, Alasdair Reid finds

By ALASDAIR REID, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 16 July 1999 12:00AM

It is one of the axioms of the business world that there is no such thing as a merger - the word is merely a euphemism designed to make the victims of a takeover feel that little bit better. This rule certainly seems to apply to the world of media specialists. Ask Andy Troullides.

It is one of the axioms of the business world that there is no such

thing as a merger - the word is merely a euphemism designed to make the

victims of a takeover feel that little bit better. This rule certainly

seems to apply to the world of media specialists. Ask Andy

Troullides.



Last week, Troullides served notice that he was resigning from his

position as joint managing director of MediaCom TMB. He is one of the

last remaining senior MediaCom executives to survive its ’merger’ with

the Media Business eight months ago.



When the deal was announced, wasn’t there all sorts of stuff about

complementary strengths, and much use of the ’synergy’ word? We’re bound

to hear more such talk too; as the business continues to consolidate,

the issue will surface with increasing frequency.



Should we be cynical by rights? When one media company enters talks with

another, should we assume that the culture of the weaker partner will

eventually be obliterated?



Some observers say it’s not that simple. And in this particular case,

there are some specific and unique cultural factors at play - the Media

Business has always been a very close-knit family.



And after all, there have been one or two examples where different

cultures have successfully been fused. Take Zenith Media. Like a

catalyst used to stimulate yet control a potentially volatile chemical

reaction, Ray Morgan and Partners was bought up by the then Saatchi &

Saatchi plc to provide a meeting point for the two very different media

cultures of the Dorlands and Saatchis agencies. MindShare employed a

slightly different but related strategy - right from the start

announcing its intention to bring in senior talent (for instance, Simon

Rees from Carat) from outside the J. Walter Thompson or Ogilvy & Mather

tributaries.



But for every Zenith there’s a New PHD. This ’merger’ was meant to be a

true meeting of minds. No culture clash problems here. Yet did many

members of the old Abbott Mead Vickers media department survive? No,

they did not. Abbott Mead’s then media director, Alan Brydon, now

managing director of CIA Medianetwork, says that’s more than a little

unfair. He comments: ’We had a successful way of doing things and we’d

never known any other way. It wasn’t a case so much of us being arrogant

- we just didn’t know there were other ways of doing things that were as

successful or even more successful. I think we also underestimated human

nature and the anxieties people feel when they enter a new and foreign

environment. That said, none of the Abbott Mead people left for the

wrong reasons. They were offered the right opportunities at the right

times elsewhere.’



One former Abbott Mead staffer says everyone bought the stuff about

there being a good philosophical fit between the two companies. But

turning up for work that first day (at PHD’s offices) was weird. ’It was

like a wedding reception - all crowding round a board to find out where

you were sitting.’ If there was going to be alienation, it probably

started there. The little things matter.



Marc Mendoza, the managing director of Mediapolis, can vouch for

that.



The integration of the WCRS media operation into Mediapolis is one of

the best examples of a merger that respects the integrity of both

participants.



Mendoza recalls: ’The most important thing we did was the seating plan.

It sounds corny, but the WCRS people really were like an extended

family. They moved as one unit and for the first six months we kept them

as one unit. It was they who came and told me I was being too

protective. They were feeling excluded. That’s when we began mixing it

up.’



So true mergers are possible? Of course, says Mendoza. ’It ended up with

a touch of both cultures. We broadened their outlook and they taught our

people that media could be a discipline in its own right. It is a

genuinely symbiotic relationship. There has been very little fall-out.

In that respect, it has been fantastically successful.’



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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