CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/CONQUEST NETWORK - Does the world require an ad network for mid-sized accounts?

’It would be a brave and foolhardy man that would bet Martin Sorrell would get an issue like this wrong.’ So Roger Edwards, a marketing and media consultant, says of Sorrell’s intention to add a fourth global advertising network to WPP’s bow.

’It would be a brave and foolhardy man that would bet Martin

Sorrell would get an issue like this wrong.’ So Roger Edwards, a

marketing and media consultant, says of Sorrell’s intention to add a

fourth global advertising network to WPP’s bow.



Sorrell has announced his intention to align the 14 European Conquest

offices with Batey Advertising in Singapore (WPP has a minority holding

in Batey, which will rise to 80 per cent over the next four years) and

Cole & Weber in Seattle. Its aim? To chase mid-sized clients with

relatively modest global budgets.



But to have a medium-sized network flies in the face of current

thinking.



So is this a masterstroke from Sorrell, or a tidy way to tie together an

agency network with no real communal identity or branding?



Luca Lindner, the Italian chief executive of Conquest, explains that the

idea for the network was born out of prolonged market analysis during

which they identified a group of more than 150 brands spending between

dollars 20 million and dollars 100 million globally.



He says the network, which was founded in 1982, will capitalise on

servicing these ’challenger’ brands, or clients that ’have global needs

that can’t be solved by a local agency’.



Lindner cites the new economy as being a driving force behind the

profusion of mid-sized brands entering this category and he describes

the current climate as ’fertile’. He says Conquest is being

forward-thinking in spotting an emerging market, saying: ’We believe

there are very big FMCGs that will start to look for agencies that will

provide global solutions that are leaner and faster than the

conventionally good ones.’ He reckons there’s dollars 6 billion worth of

business ripe for the taking, saying: ’If we take 4 per cent of the

market in the first two years, I’ll be happy.’



Sorrell’s increasing stake in Batey indicates he is looking at the

bigger picture and is committed to growing the network. But James Best,

the executive chairman of BMP DDB, warns: ’They’ve got to be very

special to succeed because the world’s not short of networks,’ he

says.



Although putting these companies together enhances their local

offerings, positioning a network like this could be difficult to sell in

to clients.



As Edwards says: ’Not many companies will agree that they are smaller or

middle sized.’



Peter Mead, the chairman of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, believes:

’There’ll be room for people who didn’t feel important enough within a

big agency, and small multinationals and medium-sized local clients will

like it.’



But some see this as an opportunistic move from Sorrell, who is finding

a niche for the medium-sized group of agencies in his portfolio that

have so far failed to set the world alight. ’I’m not sure anybody would

set out to build this network. It’s a smart expedient to make something

out of a group of agencies he’s already got,’ Edwards says.



The significant number of global agency networks may produce enough

conflicts of interest to bring Conquest business. Time will tell if the

network is a reactive, not proactive, move from Sorrell, and whether the

proposition is attractive and different enough to lure the desired

brands into the fold.



Conquest annual billings

1997    dollars 333,000,000

1998    dollars 410,380,000

1999    dollars 448,500,000

2000*   dollars 505,000,000

*estimated



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