Ian Darby: Advertising's big deals can be a force for good

By Ian Darby, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 19 July 2012 08:00AM

Basic competence is in short supply right now. Especially in the City, where the shambles around the FTSE 100 companies Barclays and G4S seemed to be the creation of feckless fools rather than men of substance.

Ian Darby: Advertising's big deals can be a force for good

Against this backdrop, we should applaud Aegis' likely £3.2 billion sale to Dentsu. This appears to be a deal fashioned on the back of solid, competent management from Aegis' chief executive, Jerry Buhlmann, and his team.

Hot on the heels of WPP's acquisition of AKQA and Publicis' move for Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the Aegis deal is no small achievement given the corporate and local difficulties the group faced in the years predating Buhlmann's tenure.

Taking a broader view, it seems likely that the Dentsu/Aegis tie-up will be followed by further major deals as the stronger ad holding groups weigh the strength of their cash reserves. Omnicom's interest in LBi has been well-documented, while the US group, which this week announced a 2 per cent rise in second-quarter profits, has also been linked with a move for Havas, which looks like a ripe target following Dentsu's move for Aegis.

Closer to home, there appear to be some tidy, well-run businesses that would make attractive targets. In April, WPP raised its stake in VCCP's owner, Chime Communications, to more than 20 per cent and it would be foolish to rule out an acquisition given the recent growth in Chime's core advertising business. Elsewhere, M&C Saatchi could generate interest after getting its overseas expansion on track and building the attractive combination of a strong creative operation with media planning and buying resource in the shape of Walker Media.

Wealth and power have gone to the heads of many in the corporate world, bringing to mind a line in Hilary Mantel's most recent novel: "Banker sits down with banker and kings are their waiting boys." Yet the swirling merger and acquisition activity in the advertising sector looks likely to provide it with a vital sense of renewal and growth. The success of agencies such as Adam & Eve and AKQA, which has proved so attractive to major advertising groups, can only serve as encouragement to a new wave of talented entrepreneurs.

Alongside these irresistible forces of progress, the IPA is also taking steps to encourage the health and diversity of the industry. Its Creative Pioneers Challenge should be applauded. This week, alongside awarding paid work placements, the scheme resulted in help for a diverse range of talent considering their own start-ups. This might not lead to the creation of businesses on the scale of Aegis, but could open the door to a talented pool with the drive and ambition to compete in a sector that is capable of teaching the nation's errant bankers a trick or two.

Claire Beale is away.

ian.darby@haymarket.com

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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