The world’s media press were there, squeezed into a conference room
at Leo Burnett’s Chicago headquarters, waiting with baited breath to
hear Roger Haupt unveil the new identity for the world’s latest
After sorting through more than 10,000 suggestions from employees within
the three networks, the name chosen to replace BDM as the brand for the
holding company which embraces the Leo Group and the MacManus Group
(backed by a substantial minority Dentsu stake of approximately 20 per
cent) is B COM3 Group.
B COM3 is, apparently, derived from the word ’beacon’, a source of light
or inspiration taken to the third power to represent the three agencies
involved. A slightly tenuous link, perhaps, and one that demands an
There is an immediate feeling among the assembled press that the
partners have jumped straight on to the dotcom bandwagon and that Leo
Burnetters will immediately associate the ’B’ with that agency.
Nevertheless, B COM3 has arrived, and not before time. BDM was starting
to feel a little too comfortable. The new name also means a small
windfall for several of the company’s employees who, along with the
person who chose the winning name, will share a stake in a dollars
Haupt, the chief operating officer of the Leo Group and the new
company’s chief executive officer, is accompanied by Roy Bostock, the
chairman and chief executive officer of MacManus, who becomes B COM3’s
chairman; Rick Fizdale, the chairman of the Leo Group, who becomes the
vice-chairman; and Yutaka Narita, the president of Dentsu. Craig Brown,
previously the vice-chairman of the MacManus Group, assumes the position
of president and chief operating officer.
Narita, flanked by no fewer than 15 Dentsu representatives, was
attending his first press conference outside Japan. To mark the
occasion, he delivered his speech entirely in English. The onus will now
be on Haupt to return the compliment on his next visit to Tokyo.
Press conference over, in a rare interview with the three partners, I
asked how they intend to position and run what Bostock refers to as ’the
world’s premier advertising, marketing and communications company - one
that is unique because nobody has the presence in the two largest
markets in the world (the USA and Japan) that B COM3 has’.
Bostock will no doubt be challenged on that score by his rivals but, for
the time being, the partners are confident that B COM3 will be a force
to be reckoned with. ’Fit is a word that comes to mind,’ Haupt explains.
’This is a rapidly changing world and we all had to sit down
individually and see if we were able to effectively compete in the long
term. We all concluded that it was not going to be possible.
’We were faced with two choices: one was to sell, but we didn’t think we
would ever get the fit we would by partnering MacManus and Dentsu. This
way we have no fall out, we all feel in control of our destiny and we
can continue to leverage our strengths in our own ways.
’It has enabled all three partners to get to that level of scale and
size that is required to compete globally over time. It is simply a
three-way partnership that we looked at and said: ’Wow! That does it for
all of us with no downside.’ It makes nothing but good sense.’
For Dentsu, the alliance marks its first real chance to make a serious
impact on the Western market - a feat that Narita admits was proving
impossible for the agency on its own.
’We have been able to satisfy our clients’ needs in Japan but their
activities are becoming more globally orientated,’ Narita says. ’They
have asked for the same level of service overseas. Dentsu alone would
not be able to provide that. Mutual respect and trust is essential.
No-one is perfect so we have to complement each other. We have to learn
something that we don’t already have. We share the same corporate
philosophy and a respect for tradition and heritage. I have a tremendous
respect for Leo Burnett and MacManus and that is why I have decided to
become part of this alliance.’
Dentsu will have two directors on the B COM3 board and will be closely
consulted on all strategic decisions, Haupt says. The strategy will be
one of ’co-operation and collaboration’, marking B COM3 out from other
major world groups which compete aggressively against sibling
Over the next 18 months, we can expect to see B COM3 ’aggressively
invest’ and expand its portfolio in the direct, database and e-commerce
When clients want the B COM3 agencies to combine, they will. But when it
comes down to the wire, who gets the final word?
’I hope it won’t get to that,’ Haupt says. ’We’ve put a major deal
together very quickly, lots of different things have come up in
discussions, we’ve solved them amicably and that’s the way we intend to
go on. I won’t sit here naively and say that there won’t be differences
of opinion but I’m very optimistic that we’ll work them out.’
Bostock has a different take on the matter: ’If there are any
differences, the chief executive will make the call, so if there are any
problems it’s Roger that’s got to solve them.’
Ownership is a subject Haupt feels less at ease discussing beyond
confirming Dentsu’s 20 per cent stake. He won’t be pushed on how the
remaining 80 per cent is broken down.
’We’re all shareholders in the same company and I don’t think its
appropriate to break it down. It’s private information and really not
relevant anymore. It’s one company now,’ he says.
And what of the timing? B COM3 will have to compete with the might of
WPP, IPG and Omnicom, each of which has firmly established its foothold
in the market. ’Becoming a holding company after others have done it is
not a downside,’ Haupt says. ’You can learn from having watched what
others have done and in some areas I hope we might be able to cut a few
corners and get there a little faster.’
Media is one area over which a huge question mark still hangs -
something Jack Klues, the chief executive at Starcom, anticipates will
be resolved in a matter of weeks. Most view a merger between Starcom and
MediaVest as the obvious solution. The two have worked together recently
to great effect.
Both formed a joint venture in China last December, temporarily called
Quest, to pitch for and subsequently win what was the largest account
shift in Asia outside of Japan - the dollars 150 million Procter &
Gamble media assignment. In the last couple of weeks, the two have again
combined to win the P&G business in Greece. Neither Starcom nor
MediaVest can alone claim European or global superpower status. Why
shouldn’t the philosophy that brought the Leo Group and the MacManus
Group together be equally applied to media operations?
A merger between Starcom and MediaVest in the UK would create the
country’s second-largest media shop with billings in excess of pounds
600 million. It would undoubtedly give the two greater clout to bully
media owners into submission on price and would also provide a
compelling case for P&G to centralise its entire UK account into B
True, Klues says. They already share Fiat, so a model exists on how the
two might work together. ’It would be an easy answer to say ’well, of
course, you’d put the two together’ and scale is very important,
particularly in the UK. But I, for one, do not think that scale alone is
going to be the proper positioning for B COM3 media entities in the UK.
I think we need to be a little more ahead in terms of positioning.’
Is there a chance then that the two would combine purely from a buying
perspective? ’Yes that’s an option, it certainly is,’ Klues says. ’It
would be outside the boundaries that we have built Starcom on and I
would need more help from my MediaVest partners on how that might be
most viable in the UK. I don’t want to discount it because I don’t know,
but I find myself in a ’not invented here’ mindset.
’Regardless of what we do between MediaVest and Starcom/Motive, you have
to find a smart way to take the best of your people on those shared
clients, the best tools for those clients, and provide a clearly
focused, single point of accountability operation for those
And where does that leave CDP Media - the Dentsu joint venture with CIA
in the UK? ’I would find it unlikely that CDP Media would be immediately
bundled together into B COM3,’ is as much as Klues can offer on the
At the holding company level, though, many question marks have already
been ironed out. Haupt, Bostock and Narita are clearly very relaxed in
each others’ company which, as Haupt points out, is some achievement
given the task which lay ahead of them just six months ago.
’Bringing together something as a threesome is no easy job because you
are constantly trying to reconcile what each party may want out of a
deal like this. I can only describe Dentsu as a very straight arrow.
They say it the way they see it and they support what they say. I never
had to worry that when Dentsu said something it was what they meant. I
never had to look over my shoulder once and I found Roy has a great
sense of humour, Haupt says.
Despite the almost regal air that surrounds Narita, his speech at the
press conference showed an informality that few would associate with the
man responsible for running Japan’s number one agency. ’As you may
know,’ he said, ’Major League baseball opens its season in Japan this
The Chicago Cubs will play the New York Mets in Tokyo. I believe that
destiny plays a part in this. We hope to create advertising headlines to
rival the news of Sammy Sossa’s home runs.’
He also shared with us the codename which the partners had been using
for the project: Nomo, which for those of you not up on your baseball
trivia is the name of the Japanese pitcher for the NY Mets.
When asked what the key will be to B COM3’s success, Haupt says that the
only vote that counts will be that of the client, and if the reaction of
John Smale, the former chairman at P&G and now an outside director of
General Motors, is anything to go by, it should be plain sailing. He is
said to have described the deal as the smartest he’s ever seen.
’I think that any clients we work with in Japan have just got to be
salivating at our ability to partner with the biggest agency there and
what we can leverage now for them,’ Haupt says. ’Equally, Dentsu can now
tap into two of the largest agencies in the States. Add to that the
media power of Dentsu, MediaVest and Starcom and we can now take that
power, that learning and all that intellectual capital and start pushing
it back between all the countries in-between.’
Haupt and Bostock have had relatively little time to get to know their
new partner but you wouldn’t notice. They’ve shared their first meal -
steak and rice to satisfy the culinary traditions of both cultures -
exchanged gifts and started to organize their first game of golf.
’Narita San and I are going to play golf in Tokyo and then in New York,’
Bostock says. And what will Haupt be doing while the two of them are
practising their backswings? ’We’re not sure yet,’ Bostock quips. ’We
might teach him to play, or he’ll be our caddy.’