McCann in link-up with Ralston shop

Barker and Ralston has teamed up with McCann-Erickson in a move that could be the prelude to a full-scale takeover of the UK shop by the giant international agency group.

Barker and Ralston has teamed up with McCann-Erickson in a move

that could be the prelude to a full-scale takeover of the UK shop by the

giant international agency group.



The deal is thought to have been been spurred by Barker and Ralston’s

need for extra critical mass to ensure it retains the business of Abbey

National, its founding client, for which it handles pounds 20 million

worth of press, poster and radio advertising.



For McCanns, the link with the pounds 33 million-billing Barker and

Ralston fills a major gap in a client portfolio that lacks a serious

piece of financial business.



At the same time, McCanns has no beer or wine accounts, while Barker and

Ralston has E&J Gallo Californian wines and Scottish Courage’s Beck’s

Bier.



Confirmation of the move, which gives Barker and Ralston access to

McCanns’ European network, comes after a year of co-operation between

the two companies.



In a statement this week, the agencies said the link had ’led to the

development of mutual respect for each other’s business and to a

contemplation of the possible benefits of a closer relationship’.



Speculation that Barker and Ralston was seeking an international partner

has been rife since last summer, when the agency lost the pounds 8

million Saab car business in the UK to the Lowe Group (Campaign, 30

August 1996).



Agency executives, who insist they could have kept the account had they

been linked to an international network, are understood to have had

preliminary talks with Grey before opting for McCanns.



The deal may stave off any potential threat to the Abbey National

business, which it shares with Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper.



Ben Langdon, McCanns’ managing director, said it was too early to talk

of a takeover or the possibility that Barker and Ralston could become

McCanns’ second-string shop. But he added: ’We’re an ambitious agency

that’s looking for growth. Derek Ralston and David Barker are successful

guys who run a healthy business and we like what they do.’



Ralston, Barker and Ralston’s managing director, said: ’At present we’re

simply exploring the options open to the two companies.’



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