Mike Greenlees was trying very hard not to appear like the cat that got
the cream last week. After Campaign bounced him into revealing his
successful bid for BDDP, he had to spend a couple of long nights
preparing statements and talking to clients. By day, his phone was hot
with congratulations from industry mates. If he was tired it didn’t show
- his elation did though.
Some might find this strange given the facts that for years now the name
BDDP has been prefixed by the adjective ‘ailing’, that GGT takes on debt
and that other interested bidders implied that the asking price was too
high. Some Brits even have a strange fear of doing business with the
However, the final price (pounds 105 million) was much lower than the
figures first bandied about, and, more importantly, GGT needed this
deal. In fact, the marriage of the two agencies is a near-perfect fit
and has been received as such in some refreshingly positive commentary
on both sides of the Atlantic. What’s more, the BDDP fit was only truly
snug with GGT. WPP would have had to sell off Wells Rich Greene in the
US because of a Procter and Gamble/Unilever conflict, and Grey would
never have had the support of the talented BDDP senior management.
Greenlees has tried unsuccessfully to escape from the middle before -
with Young and Rubicam in 1993.
He has an interesting view on global consolidation, noting that one of
the reasons major manufacturers do it in their own businesses is ‘price
resilience’. It is difficult to achieve this in a British ad industry
where not one of your numerous rivals has more than a 5 per cent share
of the whole.
Of course, this deal won’t make a huge difference in Britain itself,
where, for now, there remain two mid-size agencies, but the global
picture is telling. Interpublic has three major networks; Omnicom three;
WPP two; Cordiant runs three (including Zenith). Consolidation involving
one or more of Publicis, True North, Y&R and Bozell appears imminent.
Meanwhile, Leo Burnett, Grey, DMB&B and Euro RSCG are buoyed by the
strength of their relationships with the multinational clients Greenlees
Greenlees’s only other option was unrealistic - to take GGT private
again and be a local hotshop. That market is hardly any less competitive
in the UK, with agencies such as BBH, Simons Palmer, Rainey Kelly,
Duckworth Finn and Howell Henry all thriving. Greenlees himself
acknowledges that maybe GGT would have been a more successful agency if
it had stayed private. But it didn’t. Having made the decision it had to
keep growing. Within that context, and with the reminder that GGT-BDDP
now needs to win new business organically, this is a very good deal.