Ah ... my last column before I take maternity leave for a few
months, and still the messy Tempus saga that kept us all in column
inches through an incredibly quiet summer drags on.
Havas' decision to withdraw from the fray last week leaves WPP's 555p
per share offer as the sole bid on the table.
It gives both WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell and Tempus' Chris Ingram much to
cogitate over. Some analysts now reckon that without the bidding war,
Tempus' share price would be languishing well below the 200p mark - an
interesting nugget for Sorrell to chew.
As for Ingram, he and his team put much effort into their support of the
Havas bid and in the process made Sorrell public enemy number one.
Money, though, talks and when the Tempus results were announced this
week, Ingram signed off with a rather warmer sentiment: "The management
of all our companies is committed to working with WPP to successfully
integrate our businesses."
Such a volte-face is hardly surprising - make and make do and all that -
but it is perhaps symptomatic of an underlying issue that has served to
make the media industry so damn bland. All the passion and commitment of
its senior exponents seems to have been sucked out in the inescapable
drive towards consolidation into ever bigger international corporations.
Souls have been sold and there are far too many media chiefs who have
cashed in and are now wondering why they don't enjoy their jobs anymore.
Tempus' management - if a deal goes ahead - are unlikely to emerge into
their new family with the same sort of energy and desire they
experienced as entrepreneurs. It is simply a fact of the new media world
Against this backdrop, many media agencies have retrenched their
ambitions over the past year and this has hardly been from a position of
dynamic strategic expansion. Any advertiser looking for a media agency
that is doing something different - and doing it with a real love of the
job - will have a tough search right now.
Of course, the economic and political climates are hardly conducive to
risk-taking, experimentation or real passion but this is no excuse.
Instead of moaning about the cost-cutting demanded by their paymasters
across the Atlantic, media managers should be looking for new ways to
differentiate their businesses. After all, it's not as though this
cost-cutting is carving the heart out of many businesses. "I'm having to
get rid of so-and-so," one chief confessed the other day, "but to be
honest he hasn't been performing for the past couple of years."
Recession is reining in sloppy management and more focused and positive
agencies are perhaps waiting to emerge. If that means that some of the
disaffected, disillusioned senior management are encouraged to move on,
so much the better. See you after the clean-up.