CLOSE-UP: GLOBAL BRIEF; NW Ayer gains global access

Holly Moore looks into the acquisition of America’s oldest agency by DMB&B

Holly Moore looks into the acquisition of America’s oldest agency by


Just when it seemed that the US advertising marketplace had been all but

picked bare, DMB&B agreed to purchase N. W. Ayer and Partners, America’s

oldest agency (Campaign, last week).

The move follows a flurry of acquisition activity. Holding companies,

which have been on the prowl for hot new-media entities, have become

pretty keen on traditional ad agencies too - which offer them routes to

avoid client conflict and to develop areas of expertise.

Earlier this year, Interpublic bought the New York creative hotshop,

Angotti Thomas Hedge, which works on Foster’s lager and Saab. And Young

and Rubicam snapped up Waring and LaRosa, an independent New York shop

with a hold on the international Fisher Price toys account. Now, bonded

by the ties of Procter and Gamble and General Motors, the purchase of

Ayer is intended to offer DMB&B another avenue for general advertising


For Ayer, DMB&B’s acquisition gives it access to the international

network it has been lacking. Until recently, New York Ayer had a stake

in Ayer Europe (now Wilkens International). But Ayer Europe bought its

independence after it won the dollars 200 million European Seat account

in 1994 to avoid a conflict with New York Ayer’s US General Motors

corporate business.

N. W. Ayer, founded in 1869, created some of America’s best-known

campaigns and launched Morton salt’s famous ‘when it rains it pours’

campaign at the turn of the century. It has also worked for Detroit

giants such as Ford, Chrysler and now General Motors. And until last

year, when De Beers consolidated worldwide into J. Walter Thompson, Ayer

was the agency in the US that had said ‘A diamond is forever’ since the


In the midst of the acquisition, Ayer will suffer one major defection:

AT&T. Celebrated for its tearjerker ads under the ‘reach out and touch

someone’ slogan, it had worked with the telecommunications company since


Holly Moore is an associate editor of Adweek