BBDO to develop second network

BBDO is welding together its "partner" agencies across Europe into a second-string network in a bid to grow its business in a seriously depressed market.

The aim is to attract regional or international clients whose needs might be better served outside the main network or whose business might provoke conflict problems.

AMV Advance, the network's integrated specialist in the UK, will be one of 17 agencies likely to have a suffix added to their names to denote their membership of the alliance.

The alliance, whose members are all majority-owned by BBDO, will not have a central management. Instead, its activities will be co-ordinated out of the BBDO Europe headquarters in London.

Michael Baulk, BBDO's European chairman, said the initiative was about marshalling existing resources rather than building something new.

"We're not going out to acquire agencies, we're not changing management line-ups or reporting structures," he said. "In a zero-growth market, it makes sense to exploit our 'partner' agencies that are successful but different in character from other BBDO shops."

AMV Advance is one such agency, having been formed to service local advertising needs for Sainsbury's but which also works for clients such as Masterfoods and Pizza Hut.

"Given the size of agencies such as Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, there's bound to be a ceiling on its growth and there are opportunities with 'partner' agencies for handling referred or conflicting business," Baulk added.

BBDO chiefs say the move is one of a series of initiatives being taken to maximise profits in a brutal economic climate. "We take the view that some of the difficulties are part of a cyclical problem while some are fundamental and won't change," Baulk said.

Since taking over as the head of Europe in July 1999, Baulk has focused heavily on creating "centres of excellence" around the network. AMV, in particular, has had its telecoms experience harnessed by other BBDO shops seeking similar assignments.