Does tying the knot with a big network mean tying your own agency
in knots? Not necessarily, according to Eddie O'Mahony, the chairman and
managing director of Owens DDB. O'Mahony believes that "the day of
beating the drum of being totally Irish-owned is over", following his
agency's partnership with DDB.
Many Dublin-based agencies now have a connection with one of the majors
and O'Mahony believes that hooking up with an international player makes
sense. "Things have moved so fast that you could be out in the
wilderness by doing that (staying on your own), particularly on the
media side," he says. "Every company will eventually be aligned to
Owens DDB, whose clients include Volkswagen, McDonald's, Esso, Carlsberg
and the Irish mobile phone operator Digifone, formed an initial
affiliation with DDB in 1988. What's more, four years ago, the agency
formerly known as Peter Owens struck a more formal association with DDB.
Following a management buyout at the Irish company two years ago, the
agency became Owens DDB, although its nine senior executives still
retain 100 per cent ownership of the business.
O'Mahony said the decision to take the DDB name even without an equity
deal showed his company's "commitment" to the relationship. "We were
putting down a marker that that is where we wanted to be." He expects
that over time, DDB will become a direct shareholder in the business.
"There is obviously a desire on the part of DDB to move towards an
equity position and we would look at that when the time was right."
Since so much business is won internationally these days, locking
yourself out of a window on that world restricts your growth, according
As testament to this, Owens DDB recently won the Philips account in
Ireland after it was won internationally by the DDB network.
Through the link with a major, O'Mahony thinks his staff also improve
their chances of working on multinational brands or even seeing their
own Irish work on an international stage. Creative work written and
developed by Owens DDB in Ireland for clients such as VW and McDonald's
was used in several countries.
Meanwhile, Sean Whitaker, the director of planning at DDFH&B, says that
its relationship with J. Walter Thompson, which was cemented ten years
ago, has worked out well. JWT owns 27 per cent of the Irish agency, and
will shortly see its stake rise to 30 per cent. Yet Whitaker believes
that having local ownership is important: "It maintains an
entrepreneurial aspect. It's our business and you have a different
mindset when you own it."
About 45 per cent of DDFH&B's business comes from international clients
through JWT, while the other 55 per cent comes from local accounts.
DDFH&B, which has a client list that includes Baileys, Smirnoff, Kit
Kat, Rolo, Dunnes Stores, Persil and the Elida Faberge range, is treated
as a full member of the JWT team and is Baileys' lead agency.
"Our Baileys work is seen in 35 countries and we're the hub for the
Baileys account worldwide," Whitaker says. Teams in the US, Britain and
Spain, which are the three biggest markets for Baileys outside of
Ireland, all report to Whitaker, who oversees the account. For large
accounts such as Baileys, creative teams in the main market combine to
form a transnational "mini agency" working solely on the brand.
Although the business is becoming more international, Whitaker argues
that local offices "cannot merely be seen as a passive receiver of
Aside from "not being much fun for staff", such a route rarely makes
commercial sense. "Some brands are particularly important in particular
Baileys needs to be a success in Ireland, for example, and Ireland is a
hugely important market for Smirnoff, because it has such a large share
of the market," Whitaker says.
He believes Dublin is important for major agencies, which is often
beyond its market size. "When you're having a centralised pitch, who
wants to say we're in every European country except Ireland?"
One of the few big agency networks not to have an Irish presence is Lowe
Lintas, which is reportedly in talks to buy McConnells, Ireland's
largest independent agency. McConnells' managing director, Jarlath
Jennings, has so far neither confirmed nor denied the reports.
Speculation about a deal has been further fuelled by the arrival of the
Tesco account, which is held by Lowe in the UK. Despite some client
conflicts, senior industry figures consider it a done deal.
One agreement that has been inked recently is between QMP D'Arcy and
CDP, both of which are associated with Bcom3.
QMP's managing director, Conor Quinn, said that, under the deal, QMP
would be taking a majority stake in CDP. He added that while QMP has an
option to acquire the remainder of CDP, the two agencies would remain
separate and would continue to "compete against each other for
QMP's major clients include Mars, Fiat, Miller beer and the Irish
National Dairy Council, while CDP has a roster that includes the Irish
airports operator Aer Rianta, the state-owned power company ESB - which
is currently out to pitch - and Citroen.
The rationale for the deal was the relationship between their two
respective partners, according to Quinn.
"There's a certain sense to creating stronger structural links," he
adds. Bcom3 owns D'Arcy, which has a 17 per cent stake in QMP D'Arcy,
while the Japanese giant Dentsu, which has a 5 per cent stake in CDP,
owns 20 per cent of BCom3.
Under the arrangement Starcom MediaVest Group will become the umbrella
for both QMP's MediaVest Ireland operation and CDP's media business,
which is being renamed. "They will be linked but separate," Quinn
Most observers feel that the QMP/D'Arcy deal won't be the last and so,
for now, all ears are primed for wedding bells confirming the
MARRIAGES MADE IN THE BOARDROOM
- McConnells (Ireland's biggest agency) and Lowe Lintas (Interpublic
What's their story? A family business which is still largely owned by
the McConnell family, McConnells will not confirm the £40 million
takeover, although talks started around May. As an announcement is
overdue, there is suspicion that talks have broken down because of
client conflict between Kellogg and Lowe's clients, Nestle and Weetabix,
as well as Eircom and Orange. Key clients Tesco, Unilever, AIB Bank,
Kellogg, Masterfoods, National Lottery, Eircom.
- Peter Owens and DDB (Omnicom)
What's their story? Following the death of the agency's founder, Peter
Owens, there was an MBO by five key executives and this was followed by
a sale/merger with DDB in 1999. Key clients Philips (since the merger),
Volkswagen, Esso, Carlsberg, McDonald's.
- DDFH&B and JWT (The WPP-owned network has owned a 27 per cent stake
What's their story? DDFH&B is the third-largest agency in Ireland. It
was founded by five executives out of another agency, Arrow. Only two
out of the original five have remained - Jim Donnelly, the managing
director, and Gerry Hanlon, the creative director. There is a strong
rumour that JWT is looking to take more equity and possibly more
control. Key clients Baileys, Nestle.
- QMP D'Arcy and CDP
What's their story? QMP was an Irish agency which merged with DMB&B
about ten years ago in a bit of a scandal. The current merger was
announced in May and has not been concluded formally because of client
conflict over Citroen (CDP) and Fiat (QMP). Key clients Mars, Fiat,
Procter & Gamble.
- Irish International and BBDO
What's their story? Ireland's second-biggest agency, Irish
International, was independently owned until 1998, when it was bought on
a three-year buyout which is soon to end. Key clients Aer Lingus, An
Post (post office).