It’s not often you hear a senior agency chief describe anything
about their business as ’a bit of a bloody mess’. Particularly not the
media bit, because everyone knows that global consistency is the name of
this game, even if the reality sometimes goes little further than a
shared logo. For FCB and Bozell, though, this big wig’s comment was
pretty much an accurate reflection of the facts and one not even an
accomplished truth-glosser could bring himself to deny.
You could be forgiven for feeling confused about the media implications
of True North’s decision last week to merge FCB and Bozell into a new
network, FCB Worldwide. Primarily because neither agency’s controllers
had much of a media clue in the first place.
OK, Bozell had its BJK&E media brand in Europe, a joint venture with CIA
Medianetwork. Terrible name, and really little more than a division of
CIA once you get outside the smart operations in the UK and France.
What’s more, CIA’s parent, Tempus, has held talks with virtually every
other agency network about a possible tie-up, is partially-owned by WPP
and has joint ventures with the likes of Young & Rubicam in some
markets, all of which must be an issue when the long-term future of
BJK&E is considered.
Then there’s FCB. FCB used to use Optimedia across Europe - a media
joint venture with Publicis. But then True North bought FCB and the
agency began to untangle itself from the Optimedia operation. Some media
was shifted out of Optimedia and into BJK&E, but there was never any
real global strategy.
In the US, things are perhaps simpler, in the sense that no-one’s even
really tried to do much about media over there. TN Media is a joint
media operation between Bozell and FCB, predominantly for the purpose of
buying TV. But each agency retains an in-house media function.
True North’s decision to combine the FCB and Bozell brands could prove a
huge opportunity to create a serious media player. Now there’s the
chance to cut the crap and get a vision. The problem is, and wouldn’t
you just know it, one of size. FCB Worldwide will have combined billings
of #8.5 billion, but media billings will be well below this figure,
partly because neither Bozell nor FCB has invested in media at the
To begin cleaning up FCB Worldwide’s media will require some brave
decisions: sorting out the deal with CIA, pooling all media in the US,
creating a global media entity that is separate from the agency, and
hiring better media operators to drive the whole process. But in the
longer term, True North can’t hope to have a seat at the media table
without a major injection of billings.
If rumours are true that the company is still flexing its credit card,
then media should really drive any future purchase. Without it, the mess
may be cleared up, but will anybody notice?