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.

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.

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