CLOSE-UP PERSPECTIVE: Big boys in US are poised to acquire non-media outfits

Campaign’s Kings of Madison Avenue interviews have caused quite a stir, not least because when the first feature with John Wren of Omnicom appeared - the week he snapped up the GGT group - it looked like a piece of military planning worthy of Wren himself. In fact, it was pure, ahem, coincidence.

Campaign’s Kings of Madison Avenue interviews have caused quite a

stir, not least because when the first feature with John Wren of Omnicom

appeared - the week he snapped up the GGT group - it looked like a piece

of military planning worthy of Wren himself. In fact, it was pure, ahem,

coincidence.



A few thoughts occur after meeting Wren and his counterparts. The first

is that however you cut the figures, non-media marketing services are

growing faster than media advertising.



Sports marketing, talent management, new-media and relationship

marketing companies - these are as important as advertising agencies to

the holding companies bosses and their Wall Street or City backers for

whom growth equals acquisitions. It’s a far cry from what seem to be the

twin UK advertising industry obsessions of the moment: which Soho

’film-maker’ is shooting which ’film’ and comparing ad agencies to

football teams.



The second is their necessary commitment to the financial task of

running a holding company, a fact that casts some of them as the bully

rather than the catalyst or facilitator which they believe themselves to

be. (The story goes that Interpublic’s Phil Geier, the subject of this

week’s feature on page 28, used to tell his wife he was pumping iron on

Saturday mornings - and, since he left the house in sports gear, why

should she have doubted it? - when really he would put in a couple of

hours sweating over the balance sheet at the office.)



Here’s a suggestion for the Kings of Madison Avenue and, come to think

of it, for the King of Farm Street, Martin Sorrell. Could the various

holding companies realistically muster a united front on some aspects of

the business? A superleague, or group of industry leaders, call it what

you will, who would be prepared to speak out as one on matters of global

importance.



Without a united voice, advertising as a global industry will continue

to be subject to the rules of divide and conquer. Agencies will continue

to earn less than other advisors such as investment banks or management

consultants. Clients will be able to impose whatever terms they want

(not just financial ones) on the basis that if their existing agencies

won’t stand for them, someone else will. Pressure groups will continue

to restrict the freedom to advertise (in the US at the moment there’s a

move to ban advertising of all products that can be consumed by babies

under two years old). If the holding company bosses could display a

united front on at least some aspects of the business, well, perhaps

their agency managers may not have to keep casting envious eyes on the

fees paid to other professional colleagues and murmur, ’If only ...’



Stefano Hatfield is on holiday.



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