Omnicom is saying it will not merge BDDP GGT with TBWA Simons
Palmer should its proposed buyout of the GGT Group go ahead.
But there is no logical reason why they should not join forces. It would
fit in with Omnicom’s stated long-term ambitions and would also create
the fifth largest agency in Britain - a similar size to Omnicom’s two
other big UK players, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and BMP DDB.
On the plus side, client conflict between TBWA and BDDP is almost
non-existent. Major TBWA clients include Nissan, Goldfish, Sony
Playstation, Seagram and News International, while as luck would have
it, BDDP as an agency has a gap in the automotive, finance and media
Likewise, TBWA - in London at least - could happily open its doors to
Cadbury’s, Marlboro, Heinz, Le Shuttle, BBC and Thomas Cook - six of
BDDP’s major clients.
Existing clients, however, might prove a barrier. Both TBWA and BDDP
have been through mergers already in the past 12 months. TBWA with
Simons Palmer Clemmow Johnson and GGT with BST-BDDP (Campaign 24 January
1997 and 10 October 1997). It is enough to try anyone’s patience, and
Scottish Courage, which is still trimming its agency list, might, for
example, take the opportunity to gripe at BDDP. Similarly, the Wrigley
Company and Pretty Polly both left TBWA in 1996 to follow its former
creative director, Trevor Beattie, when he joined BDDP last March.
But it will be personnel conflicts that are likely to prove the most
serious issue for any planned merger of the two agencies. Particularly
for Beattie, who split acrimoniously with TBWA and its chief executive,
Paul Simons, soon after that merger.
The union was a particularly painful one, and many of Beattie’s allies
at the former TBWA have already left, notably two of the creative
directors, Steve Chetham and John Kelley, and the chairman, Jonathan
Hoare (story, page 5). Beattie would also have to fight for any new role
against Tony Malcolm and Guy Moore, the existing creative heads of
TBWA as an agency has a reasonably slimline management structure, while
the BDDP team was left very top heavy following the BST-BDDP merger with
GGT. Thus any further merging is likely to produce significant
At BDDP, Paul Bainsfair and John Sharkey, the joint chairmen, and Grant
Duncan, managing director, are running the agency along with the
creative director, Beattie, with input from the executive creative
director, Paul Leeves.
Over at TBWA, Simons is happiest when he is running his own show, and
his managing director, Carl Johnson, would not be keen to relinquish the
day-to-day running of the agency to Duncan or anyone else.
So a merger would inevitably result in management mayhem and serious
bloodshed. For this reason, Omnicom would certainly pause before taking
any action. A period of uncertainty is thus likely for all the staff at
TBWA and BDDP, with scant comfort provided by top management denials of
any agency union.
After all, Mike Greenlees, chairman of the GGT Group and architect of
this week’s deal with Omnicom, strenuously denied he would merge GGT
with BST-BDDP right up until the moment both agencies decided to come
together last October.
Simons and Johnson will be at a distinct advantage if Omnicom bosses
should ever find themselves casting around for a management team to head
the new agency.
They were both GGT high-flyers before leaving to form their own agency,
and the pair know the GGT culture, and even some of its clients, like
Cadbury, very well.
Diane Kroll, the head of television at TBWA, only recently moved to that
agency after 15 years as head of television at GGT.
Live Issue, p13.
Do It All
BBC (TV licensing)
The Big Issue
East Midlands Electricity
TBWA Simons Palmer
Central Office of Information
British Heart Foundation