’Last Monday morning, as details of what was happening began to
emerge, three or four of us sat down and started to go through the
We could see that some of it didn’t add up but reckoned there were far
brighter people than us within the group and they would put us
We’re still waiting to hear the answers.’ The speaker is a senior media
executive in a Cordiant operating company - and he is talking about the
group’s imminent restructure and how it will affect Zenith Media.
Zenith’s worldwide chairman, John Perriss, has his work cut out. Over
the past week, the murmuring in the ranks has got louder.
The Perriss line is that the demerger of Cordiant into two listed agency
groups, both of which will have a 50 per cent stake in Zenith Media
Worldwide, will strengthen Zenith (Campaign, last week). It will be more
clearly branded as a media independent, the shareholding structure will
In the past, the creative agencies had no stake in Zenith’s success
because all profit went straight to Cordiant. The new structure will
ensure the two networks will benefit directly from Zenith’s future
success - both Saatchi and Saatchi and Bates will do everything to
guarantee that success.
So investment won’t be a problem - especially as a third source could be
forthcoming. Cordiant is looking for a major global partner to take a
stake in the network and a number of possible investors have been
mooted, including DMB&B, Young and Rubicam and Leo Burnett. Extra
funding would allow Zenith to establish itself in the US and in
continental Europe, expand in Asia and enter the Latin American
’There’s a lot of nonsense being talked about potential Zenith
partners - I hope it’s not coming from the top at Zenith,’ a source
said. ’It’s not so much kite-flying as plucking names from the air.’
And there is scepticism about how an investment strategy would be
If agency A pulls in a client that needs a major Zenith expansion in
Asia, at the same time as agency B pulls in a client with a European
focus, which gets priority? That could lead to some very serious
There are more fundamental questions about day-to-day operations. If
Zenith has two masters, doesn’t that double the ’security risk’ of
client confidentiality? If soon-to-be-ex-Cordiant agencies are worried
about this, what do Zenith’s direct clients think?
The longer these questions hang in the air, the greater the excuse for
power politics. Should Bates and Saatchis bosses beef up media planning
to keep as much control as possible over the media process? The creative
agencies have always acted as media principals, using Zenith as a buying
subcontractor. But they were all equals within the sight of Cordiant
The rules are bound to change - and that could have serious implications
for the credibility of Zenith’s planning function.
Bates and Saatchis managers have expressed reservations about Zenith’s
track record in planning, especially at account management level. These
are likely to be confirmed after last week’s resignation of Zenith’s
managing director, Andy Tilley. He was the public face of Zenith’s
commitment to planning and the guarantor of its excellence.
Steering a course for Zenith will take strong diplomacy. No-one is
suggesting the knives are out for Perriss - but he could be in for his
roughest ride yet. Perriss is a consumate politician, but his power base
has been within Cordiant - and in the past he has stood on one or two
toes at Bates and Saatchis.
Perriss is as likely as anyone to have the answers to even the toughest
questions about Zenith. An expectant audience awaits - not least within
the extended but increasingly insecure Cordiant.