OMNICOM TAKEOVER OF GGT GROUP: Knives sharpened as Omnicom’s merger denials fail to quash fears

Omnicom is saying it will not merge BDDP GGT with TBWA Simons Palmer should its proposed buyout of the GGT Group go ahead.

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.

Client list



Wrigley Company

Pretty Polly

Scottish Courage

Do It All

French Connection

KP Foods


St Ivel

BBC (TV licensing)

BBC Worldwide


Le Shuttle

Thomas Cook

Philip Morris


The Big Issue

East Midlands Electricity

Kew Gardens

TBWA Simons Palmer



Sony Playstation

News International


Central Office of Information

Apple Computer



British Heart Foundation



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