EDITORIAL: Dooner attempts a fair balance at IPG

Those who have worked at Lowe over the years know just what it

feels like when the words "Frank's on the phone for you" are uttered:

your stomach sinks as panic travels like electricity through you. And

last week's reports that Lowe's dominion, called The Partnership, has

been extended to incorporate Initiative Media, Deutsche, Bozell and more

will see that sensation spreading to new fields.



Yet Interpublic's restructure has mostly met with favourable

comment.



By creating The Partnership, IPG is aligning various smaller businesses

with the likes of Lowe Lintas and Initiative, creating "synergies" and

lending critical mass to those who need it. But in the short term, the

restructure's significance has more to do with keeping group heads

happy.



Rumours of conflict between Lowe and IPG's chief executive, John Dooner,

have been rife this year.



On paper Lowe has been owed more influence within IPG. When the former

IPG head, Phil Geier, retired it was Dooner, the head of

McCann-Erickson, who took the helm, not Lowe. And as if this wasn't

enough, another McCann chief, Michael Sennott, was made vice-chairman of

Lowe Lintas & Partners two and a half years ago.



So in making Frank Lowe the king of a larger kingdom, Dooner has gone

some way to address this imbalance. His diplomacy is also apparent in

the choice of a name for the new network. You can be sure that Frank

Lowe had some kind of Lowe-centric branding in mind, not a wishy-washy

name like The Partnership. This branding most likely represents Dooner

coping with demands from the likes of Donny Deutsch and Initiative's

Marie-Jose Forrissier.



It's a shame really, because in being called The Partnership, this new

network won't carry any immediate clout. Lowe branding, love it or hate

it, does mean something to the world's marketing community.



Perhaps the most surprising element in the restructure, however, is that

Lowe has been handed control of Initiative. Throughout most of the 90s

he steadfastly refused to let Lowe Howard-Spink's media department

evolve with the rest of the UK's media industry as an independent

company. Instead, Lowe's media arm remained in-house until 1997 when,

finally, Western was spun off. Few would argue that this move came too

late: only three years later and Western has just been folded into

Initiative.



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