CLOSE-UP PERSPECTIVE: Big clients call the shots as agencies trumpet the deals

True North merges FCB with Bozell ... Interpublic marries Ammirati Puris Lintas with Lowe ... Leo Burnett pips IPG to MacManus ... this is how the ad world turns these days but, underneath, it’s still all about servicing the client: ’Oh yes, we can offer consultancy/total communications/new media as well as advertising if you’d like it, sir.’ So it was no surprise when Roy Bostock (chairman of the new Burnett/MacManus/Dentsu holding company) told Campaign that the merger was about offering ’better service to our global clients’.

True North merges FCB with Bozell ... Interpublic marries Ammirati

Puris Lintas with Lowe ... Leo Burnett pips IPG to MacManus ... this is

how the ad world turns these days but, underneath, it’s still all about

servicing the client: ’Oh yes, we can offer consultancy/total

communications/new media as well as advertising if you’d like it, sir.’

So it was no surprise when Roy Bostock (chairman of the new

Burnett/MacManus/Dentsu holding company) told Campaign that the merger

was about offering ’better service to our global clients’.



Jim Royle (slob dad of TV’s Royle Family) might see the current agency

mating mania a little differently, especially after taking a look at the

dollars 100 million-odd owing to Bostock as a direct result of the deal

and subsequent flotation. ’Servicin’ global clients my arse!’ he’d

say.



But would he be right? Just as clients have long been used to parking

their BMWs next to the agency chairman’s Aston Martin, these days they

are used to agency people making vast personal fortunes. But how do they

feel about all those deals struck in the name of client service which

are really about increasing shareholder value at the holding

companies?



It depends on whether they are multinational or local clients. The

theory is that local clients don’t care so long as their agency has a

strong creative reputation locally, but such clients are increasingly

rare - most now operate across borders.



Looking at the issue from a multinational perspective leads to P&G,

Unilever and Mars. There is still no evidence to suggest they find it

acceptable for an agency to say it can run two competing clients in

separate divisions.



Why should they have access to half the agency’s resources when they

thought their fee entitled them to the whole thing? That’s why some

observers detect the hand of P&G and Mars in last week’s news of the

Burnett-MacManus marriage. Despite a reported willingness to tear down

the walls of conflict, P&G may have baulked at okaying the deal everyone

thought was about to happen - the purchase of MacManus by

Unilever-fuelled IPG - and encouraged the merger of two of its roster

agencies. Mars, meanwhile, may have been unwilling to share IPG with

Nestle.



Similarly, Unilever is the main driving force behind the merger of APL

with Lowe. It has made it very clear in word and deed that it seeks a

more creative approach in its advertising; now it eagerly awaits what

Lowe’s creative prowess can deliver.



So multinational clients do call the shots, as Wall Street applauds.



Until, that is, the frenzy of dealmaking leads inevitably to one

enormous agency holding company servicing one giant client ... then the

client decides to pull the account in-house.





caroline.marshall@haynet.com



Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.



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