CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/BANKS HOGGINS O’SHEA AND FCB - Banks faces uphill struggle to put FCB on the map. Is the merger a long-term revival strategy or a mere band-aid? By Emma Hall

FCB has few admirers. For anyone who has come into advertising over the past decade or so, the name conjurs up little except decades-old campaigns such as ’we’ll take more care of you’ for British Airways, the Dulux dog, the Sure tick or ’it’s got to be Gordons’.

FCB has few admirers. For anyone who has come into advertising over

the past decade or so, the name conjurs up little except decades-old

campaigns such as ’we’ll take more care of you’ for British Airways, the

Dulux dog, the Sure tick or ’it’s got to be Gordons’.



John Banks has plenty of admirers. Most of the people who have worked

with him or played golf with him can’t help noticing that he is very

accomplished at getting what he wants in the end.



Last week, FCB put its faith in Banks by forking out an undisclosed sum

for his agency, Banks Hoggins O’Shea, and making him chairman of the

merged company which gains immediate top 20 status. But is Banks the

right man to revive the fortunes of the London flagship of FCB’s

European network?



One FCB insider warns: ’If FCB had made a bolder move, people would have

taken more notice.’ Already the news is tainted with historical

references - the press release issued by Banks Hoggins O’Shea/FCB talks

of the merged agency’s return to Baker Street, ’traditionally FCB’s home

in London’.



And when Harry Reid, the president of FCB International, lists his

reasons for the deal with Banks Hoggins, it is the international and big

agency experience Banks acquired years ago at Ogilvy & Mather and Young

& Rubicam that appears most attractive.



A reliance on FCB’s past comes up again when Reid boasts: ’We have never

had a problem attracting the top young talent in London. FCB is still a

name and has a latent pedigree in the UK.’



Two recent senior appointments - Tony Douglas, the European chairman,

and Geoff Thompson, the worldwide creative director who came over from

the US earlier this year - were made to signal that the network is

taking Europe seriously, but it is the long-awaited tie-up with a London

agency that says most about FCB’s future.



Reid, who used to work with Banks at O&M, is full of enthusiasm for his

latest deal. He says: ’We have got momentum now, the team spirit is

fantastic and the Banks deal is a real fillip to the agency.’ But he

also acknowledges that FCB, whose senior management is described as

’moribund’ by one insider, still has a way to go: ’We need to improve

our creative offering. We are a small to medium-sized agency and we need

to get up the ladder - out of the top 20 is out of mind.’



For Banks, the deal also rescues his agency from the murky middle

ground.



He says: ’Seven years into the life of the agency, we had to decide the

next stage of development. Clients would have given us more business if

we’d had an international network link and we have also been fearful of

losing business through realignments. It has been hard work to move the

company ahead and we’re too small to float.’



As early as 1993, Banks was rumoured to be making a deal with Kevin

Morley Marketing, and he is said to have been very disappointed when

Rupert Howell beat him to a lucrative deal with Chime Communications

earlier this year.



FCB has been similarly eager for a deal in the UK, especially since the

crippling nine-year global alliance between True North, FCB’s parent,

and Publicis, was dissolved in February 1997, giving True North full

control of FCB London. Walsh Trott Chick Smith and Duckworth Finn Grubb

Waters were both targeted by FCB before the Banks deal came to

fruition.



John Banks and his two creative partners, Chris O’Shea and Ken Hoggins,

are tied into the deal for three years, but there has to be a question

over their long-term commitment to FCB. All are around 50 years old and

have had long and eventful careers in the business. FCB’s choice of

independent London agencies was limited and Banks was always negotiating

from a position of strength which secured the top jobs for himself and

his partners.



But Banks will be expected to perform in his new role and his reputation

for shrewd new-business acumen will be put to the test. Reid is

expecting him to contribute ’a high-powered leadership with the ability

to push down doors and make connections’.



Reid is defensive about the decision to go with Banks Hoggins: ’I have

done 40 acquisitions in the last four years. I am aware of every agency

in London and Banks Hoggins is pretty near the top. Maybe if we’d gone

for St Luke’s or Mother people would say we were more daring, but we

were looking deeper into the dynamics required. I have got to know Banks

Hoggins really well and there is a terrific group of people there.’



However, there is a lot of speculation that last week’s deal is merely a

’band-aid’ solution, patching up the London agency’s wounds until the

real deal is done. ’The Banks deal provides an injection of people and

it will help the UK business but it doesn’t complete the whole jigsaw,’

one former FCB executive, says. Despite the failure of the Publicis

tie-up, FCB is looking into a venture with a Europe-based network, of

which Havas or Saatchi & Saatchi look like being the front-runners.



Banks, Hoggins and O’Shea are walking straight into a tough challenge.

Kimberly-Clark, the cornerstone client of FCB’s European network, has

asked FCB to pitch for its business against O&M and J. Walter

Thompson.



If the impending result goes against Banks Hoggins O’Shea/FCB, the new

company will face a daunting struggle to build European credibility for

the network.



Editor’s comment, p21





BANKS HOGGINS O’SHEAD/FCB CLIENTS

RANK   AGENCY                                        EMPLOYEES  BILLINGS

                                                                pounds m

25     FOOTE CONE BELDING                            70            46.85

       CLIENTS Associated Newspapers (Daily Mail),

       Bristol Myers Squib (Clairol), Coors,

       Kimberly-Clark (Andrex, Kleenex), Nabisco,

       Royal London Insurance, SC Johnson, Tropicana

26     BANKS HOGGINS O’SHEA                          60             46.4

       CLIENTS Barclays b2, Buena Vista Home

       Entertainment (Disney Video), Daihatsu,

       Sara Lee, Leaf UK (Chewits, Elizabeth Shaw,

       Jolly Rancher, Lo Bar), Lec Refrigeration,

       Virgin Interactive, Waitrose, Weetabix

       (Advantage, Crunchy Bran), Westbay

       Distributors (Bacardi-Martini, Bombay

       Sapphire Gin)

Sources: MMS, Banks Hoggins O’Shea, FCB.



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