OPINION: Pride came before the pounds 68m fall at True North

The value of investments - as those irritating ’wealth warnings’ on financial ads constantly remind us - can go up as well as down. So, after extricating itself from its ill-starred global alliance with Publicis, there was little realistic chance of True North clawing back the pounds 68 million that it alleges to have been short-changed by.

The value of investments - as those irritating ’wealth warnings’ on

financial ads constantly remind us - can go up as well as down. So,

after extricating itself from its ill-starred global alliance with

Publicis, there was little realistic chance of True North clawing back

the pounds 68 million that it alleges to have been short-changed by.



What prompted the US group to file a claim with the London Court of

International Arbitration when the odds against success were so

high?



The answer defies logical explanation but provides a grim warning of the

consequences of allowing ego and emotion to overshadow common sense.



Let us hope that the court’s ruling against True North puts an end to

what has been a debilitating, expensive and distracting confrontation

for both sides.



With hindsight, it’s easy to see that the seeds of destruction had been

sown from the start and that the alliance between Publicis and True

North’s FCB subsidiary was an ill-conceived, badly thought-out

marriage.



What’s more, it paid little heed to the huge cultural differences

separating an inward-looking US operation and a highly ambitious French

group with a big US credibility problem to overcome if it wanted to

evolve into a truly global player.



Little wonder that the ink was barely dry when each partner was accusing

the other of deceit and duplicity. Or that Bruce Mason, True North’s

former chief executive, was later to admit that the partnership was

fundamentally flawed because neither side had majority control.



For Maurice Levy, the chief executive officer of Publicis, the question

is whether, as someone who has undoubtedly enlivened the global

advertising scene, he can become a dominant player in it.



Often cast as a Napoleon who failed to defeat the heavy cannon of True

North and its powerful clients, Levy must prove to the US market that he

understands its ways and has drawn strength from his experience.



Perhaps the most positive signal he can give is to make the Publicis

name better known across the Atlantic. While his US stable boasts the

likes of Fallon McElligott and Hal Riney, they will do little to pull in

the US-based multinational clients vital to the agency’s global growth.



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