OPINION: Bates runs out of puff in relentless global game

Like a road runner puffing to keep up with the leaders of the pack, the Bates network is looking increasingly like it will not cross the finishing tape without some help. Try as it might, the chances of it joining the elite club of players which dominate the global communications scene without joining forces with one of them look remote.

Like a road runner puffing to keep up with the leaders of the pack,

the Bates network is looking increasingly like it will not cross the

finishing tape without some help. Try as it might, the chances of it

joining the elite club of players which dominate the global

communications scene without joining forces with one of them look

remote.



Sadly, Bates has always looked like an also-ran. For so long

overshadowed by its sexier Saatchi & Saatchi sister, it has never given

the appearance of a robust standalone operation since the break-up of

the family at the end of 1997.



It boasts no world-renowned names. Moreover, unlike its major rivals, it

has never been able to transform its flagship New York office, still

suffering the legacy of earlier culture clashes and a lack of management

stability, into an effective conduit for US-based multinational

clients.



Since the catastrophic loss of pounds 270 million worth of Mars business

three years ago, British American Tobacco is the only international

business cementing the network together.



True, BAT’s merger with Rothmans could mean extra business for Bates

Dorland in London. But as the world closes in on tobacco advertisers,

BAT is not an alluring long-term prospect.



Instead, Bates has had to content itself with the uphill and frustrating

task of growing multinational business out of regional assignments

Also, as Michael Bungey, the Bates chairman rightly pointed out at the

time of the group’s demerger, no more than two or three major

international clients a year put their business up for pitch. And when

they do, it’s usually because of consolidation.



With no major global realignments in prospect and doubts about whether

Bates will deliver on its post-demerger performance promises, the

network has few options. To do nothing would be to consign itself to a

perpetually fruitless challenge to the front runners while the back

markers snap at its heels.



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