Interpreting what Procter & Gamble is up to is a bit like being in
Moscow during the Soviet era when foreign correspondents rigorously
examined every leadership speech for hidden meaning and watched the May
Day parade podium for evidence of a purge.
The world's biggest advertiser doesn't enjoy close scrutiny and deals
harshly with any roster agency indiscreet enough to discuss its inner
workings with outsiders. So what's to be made of P&G's decision to
enhance its relationship with Havas Communications just two years after
it relieved the group of dollars 100 million-worth of billings? With
little to go on, judgments are difficult.
Havas is out to rebuild bridges, using the softly softly diplomacy of Ed
Eskandarian, the chief executive of its Arnold Worldwide subsidiary and
its New York shop Jordan McGrath Case & Partners/Euro RSCG - now
incorporated into the Arnold network.
Jordan McGrath, the only Euro agency to survive the bloodbath in 1999,
enjoys a good relationship with P&G and will play a key part in the
attempt to lever business.
But whether or not the switch of the pounds 3 million UK Bounty kitchen
towel account out of Leo Burnett and into Arnold's Partners BDDH signals
a fundamental shift in the P&G global roster or amounts to any more than
a bit of local tweaking remains to be seen.
The most likely explanation is that P&G, reduced to four networks after
a less than satisfactory performance by Euro, is using the change of
ownership at Jordan McGrath to recreate its original network
For Havas, it will be an uphill struggle. While P&G is a much
sought-after client because of the critical mass it gives a network and
the huge contribution it makes to overheads, the company has a
reputation for steadfast loyalty to its roster shops.
In the group's favour is the fact that P&G is not the lumbering
leviathan it was. A cathartic period that saw rivals such as SC Johnson
and Colgate outselling it and Unilever's Persil stealing market share
has provoked a fundamental re-evaluation. The aim now is to get the most
creative and effective advertising possible, leading to creatively led
shops such as HHCL & Partners and Mother being admitted to its agency
The effect of all this will certainly have been to put all P&G's roster
networks - Grey Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi, Burnett and D'Arcy - on
So good luck to Havas. It has set itself a huge challenge. Bounty is a
promising start. It has a foot in P&G's door. Now let's see if it can
break it down.