EDITORIAL: Burkitt DDB enters a crowded market

British advertising needs another middle-ranking agency like a hole in the head and it’s difficult to see how the coupling of Court Burkitt with Griffin Bacal will create an entity greater than the sum of its parts.

British advertising needs another middle-ranking agency like a hole

in the head and it’s difficult to see how the coupling of Court Burkitt

with Griffin Bacal will create an entity greater than the sum of its

parts.



Neither shop has exactly set the UK advertising scene on fire in recent

years. Both have been heavily dependent on single clients -Hasbro and

United Distillers & Vintners - and the forecast must be that the merged

operation has a tough fight ahead in a massively over-supplied

market.



Omnicom-owned Griffin Bacal has been an object lesson on how being

bankrolled by one big client can be a double-edged sword. Hasbro, the

US-based toymaker, is its raison d’etre. It provided the impetus for the

agency to set up shop in London 13 years ago and it still accounts for

up to 70 per cent of its business.



But Griffin Bacal has found its Hasbro comfort blanket suffocating as

much as warming. Local new business has been hard to come by not only

because potential clients have been reluctant to sign for an agency so

dominated by one advertiser but also because its senior management has

been so focused on Hasbro there has been little time for anything else.

Occasional outbursts of creativity, like its witty print campaign for

Orangeboom lager, have been rare and unsustainable.



At Court Burkitt, a spreading of the client base can’t disguise the

effect of the diminished amount of UDV business at the agency or the

conclusion that it is something of a distress purchase by Omnicom.



All of this goes to show that, when it comes to acquiring smaller

networks, major groups still find it hard to look beyond instant

financial gratification.



WPP’s Conquest, formed as a repository for Alfa Romeo’s pan-European

account, has taken a decade to emerge from its identity crisis. Griffin

Bacal, having brought its Hasbro dowry to Omnicom, has yet to find its

true place within the enlarged family.



If the newly created Burkitt DDB is to thrive, Omnicom will need to

nurture it by ensuring that it is fed business that is neither large

enough nor appropriate for its larger operations to handle. If it is

neglected, it will become a mere sideshow that will find it hard to

attract quality people. Its best hope is to relaunch itself with an

aggressive new-business programme that will doubtless be given added

momentum by the earn-out deals of the senior managers. Above all, it

must have something special to say.



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