There were two obvious reasons for 1998’s frenzied deal-making
activity: the threat of local recession, and the continuing
international convergence of formerly implacable enemies.
Smaller independent agencies believed the time was right to sell, partly
because slowdown loomed and partly due to the number of cash-rich
suitors bearing cheque-books, anxious to acquire mass because it has
become so difficult to do so organically.
Next year, smaller media independents and Duckworth Finn Grubb Waters
aside, the deals will be on a more international scale - akin to last
week’s Dentsu/Leo Burnett news.
If Chrysler can merge with Daimler-Benz and Netscape ally with AOL and
Sun, then surely the logic of Cordiant, DMB&B, Zenith, Havas, True
North, Aegis, Saatchi & Saatchi, Publicis, Hakuhodo or Young & Rubicam
finding a new partner is not too scary.
Of course, business logic and business people’s egos do not always
When the MacManus/Leo Burnett media alliance fell through because not
all the senior managers were satisfied with their intended new roles,
people called us asking the real reason - as if that wasn’t bad
When Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham abandon a global merger
because their respective bosses can’t agree who’d come out on top, then
it’s entirely unsurprising that two relatively small ad agencies can
abandon a deal for the same reason.
The greater business logic will prevail. We will see mega-mergers next
year because individual agency groupings need to protect themselves
from, and take advantage of, the inexorable march of globalisation.
Increasingly, power will not reside with the local managers of national
agencies but with international account director barons.
However, particularly in the light of the Procter & Gamble diktat on
relaxing client conflict rules (one of the most significant developments
of the year), small creative boutiques will pick up ever more problem
local brands. It was ever thus, now it’s just more so.
It appears that I’ve upset more people than ever during this year.
It is one of the perils of column-writing, as my erstwhile colleague,
Harriet Green, found to her cost over the Rubberstuffers ad.
On occasion, aggrieved readers ask, ’Why do you hate us?’ In the best
seasonal spirit, I can only reply that as much as we all enjoy the
business, I couldn’t hate an agency or adman.
I can think of a couple of ex-girlfriends or current family members that
might fall in the ’hated’ category. But I have to have loved someone
first to be able to hate them, or someone has to have harmed someone I
love. Whether an ad is good or not, or whether a deal appears to make
sense or not, is business - not personal.
I’m lucky, like any columnist, to be granted space in which to spout
off. But Campaign readers have always been given the right of reply, and
always will. Whether you believe I’ve slighted you or not this year,
thank you for reading and have a Happy Christmas.