’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
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
Although putting these companies together enhances their local
offerings, positioning a network like this could be difficult to sell in
As Edwards says: ’Not many companies will agree that they are smaller or
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
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