PERSPECTIVE: Turbulent economic climate plays havoc with adland's plans

Before the dust settles on what's really going on at Testa and

Tempus, we are left to draw our own conclusions. So here goes ...



First, Testa. After years of half-hearted flirting, it looked like

Italy's most admired agency, Armando Testa, had finally committed to the

London market when it swooped on some of the best creative talent in

London. To the outside world it was a potentially successful

partnership: Testa acting as banker and Walter Campbell, Dave Dye, Sean

Doyle and the other founders charged to attract clients and pour out a

succession of award-winning campaigns. It was never as simple as that,

but the conclusions that could be drawn at the abrupt end of this

fledgling partnership need examining here and everyone will be looking

for a story beyond the economic reasons cited on this week's front

page.



One explanation is that here are some big agency luvvies who cannot

handle the realities of a start-up. Nor, in an age and a business where

pre-nups are essential, did they do the right contractual digging before

leaping into bed with an Italian network with two failed marriages in

the UK to its name. This theory is founded on the record of the three

founding creatives at AMV where they were famous for being allowed to

pursue a path of fanatical attention to creative detail producing a

stream of work of outstanding visibility and originality. Think Guinness

"surfer" or Economist and Guinness posters.



But it takes two to make a divorce, so there's another reading of this

story. Is it perhaps that - like Wieden & Kennedy in its early

incarnations in London - an independent agency network has misunderstood

the UK market and the motivations of its most talented players in order

to focus on its own ambitions for a flotation. CDD, for its part,

intends to continue as an agency with or without backers. Let's give it

until Christmas to show it is viable.



And so to Tempus. On Friday, news broke that Havas dropped out of the

bidding, leaving WPP as the sole bidder and allowing pesky commentators

such as Claire Beale (p16) and myself to note layers of irony it would

take a JCB to uncover. Sir Martin Sorrell, dealmaker extraordinaire,

finding himself responsible for bidding 555p each for shares now trading

at 448p. Chris Ingram, who it has been said would rather lick the floor

of an abattoir than be taken over by WPP, obliged to recommend just such

an offer to his shareholders.



With the world's stock markets in turmoil at the moment, making any

definitive predictions would be foolish. But that turmoil may be the

very get out clause that could enable WPP to cite "material adverse

change" and withdraw from the deal. That's City jargon for something

significant and unpredicted that has changed in the target business to

mean it's effectively not the same deal anymore. The US tragedy of 11

September and its aftermath can surely be seen in those terms - and not

just for deals, for humans too.



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