The drawing together of the D’Arcy and Leo Burnett networks is the
latest seismic shift in a changed global communications landscape.
Big is the new buzzword and consolidation the name of the game. As
client businesses converge with retailers becoming banks and
supermarkets like Wal-Mart attempt to bestride the world, so they demand
that their networks mirror their ambitions to be biggest and best.
The danger with this rush for size is that quality, effectiveness and
efficiency are left trampled in the dust.
This threat is very real. The merging of the Leo and MacManus groups is
bound to create a whiff of panic among the shrinking number of suitable
dancing partners. The inevitable result will be alliances that are
merely defensive and have nothing new or positive to offer clients.
Of course, the huddling together for mutual warmth is nothing new among
agencies. Nor is the striving to be both biggest and best which has
always been an elusive goal - just ask the Saatchi brothers. More often,
big simply means more bureaucracy.
Perceptive clients already know this. Which is why more of them are
seeking to split the creation of ideas from the implementation of
Just as they draw assurance from dealing with law firms and management
consultancies with global reputations, so they need the comfort of
knowing their agency networks have the ubiquitous presence to service
But when it comes to strategic and creative thinking, growing numbers of
multinational advertisers prefer to entrust the tasks to ’ideas
factories’ of the most talented people available, irrespective of
whether they work in their roster agencies.
Unless the new leviathans can provide both creativity and volume,
clients will treat them as delivery machines in competition with the big
media buying shops. The fact that key European markets such as Spain
import an estimated 25 per cent of creative work is compelling evidence
of the need to play the mating game with care.
Get it right and there are unparalleled opportunities to be drawn into
the heart of a client’s business. Get it wrong and the enlarged network
plays a translation and placement role, loved for its body but not its