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
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
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.’