As the staff of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO partied the night away at their annual Christmas bash last Wednesday, few of them knew that Santa would come early the next day.

As the staff of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO partied the night away at

their annual Christmas bash last Wednesday, few of them knew that Santa

would come early the next day.

Approximately 70 staff across the group will cash in handsomely as a

result of Omnicom’s decision to buy the majority of the Abbott Mead

Vickers group’s shares. Although, at time of writing, the deal has not

been formalised, it would be too embarrassing for it not to go ahead now

the group has issued a statement.

So, what difference will it make? Most unlikely to happen is a change of

name to BBDO Abbott Mead Vickers - as reported in the Times. Abbott Mead

is the brand, and that doesn’t change.

In fact, little changes tangibly - other than AMV plc being delisted

from the media sector. It ends an impressive 13-year run, much of it

spent as the sector leader; a role it performed invaluably through the

rocky pre-Cordiant Saatchi & Saatchi years, when WPP was struggling too

and AMV was the only credible agency stock.

The operating companies will nevertheless benefit from being removed

from the glare of public company status. Staff will gain too - through

greater international employment opportunities.

Omnicom’s move has been inevitable since it first acquired a minority

holding in 1991. A buyout has been its intention ever since, but the

share price remained too high. For Abbott Mead Vickers, it was a

virtuous Catch-22.

Thanks to the recent bout of profit-taking in the sector spurred by

recession worries, the price became affordable. No more complicated than

that really - other than (understandably) in the founders’ psyches.

The logic for the move is impeccable. Although BBDO has been more

successful than most in allowing agencies to develop and retain a local

flavour, it is difficult to run a network with minority stakes in key

markets - just look at Bates. The minority arrangement has worked well

to date, but the agency may not always have such benign management.

And there are other issues. Now, if New York wanted to impose Optimum

Media Direction on London, it could. Of course, even when you’re 100 per

cent-owned you can demur: look at Ogilvy & Mather’s Shelly Lazarus

resisting MindShare in the US.

But BBDO is the devil Abbott Mead knows. It made its decision in 1991.

That’s why the management must be sanguine about the week’s events. They

are too good not to embrace a situation they cannot fight.

David Abbott’s recent retirement heralded a period of change. Now, the

person whose daily work life will be most affected is Peter Mead. No

more schmoozing analysts at the Connaught for him. Will he get more

involved with the agency again? Will he work more closely with Omnicom’s

John Wren, a man he clearly admires?

Abbott Mead Vickers, as a decent employer, deserves its success. Only a

fool would imagine it will change radically overnight. But it won’t be

quite the same. For a start, Andrew Robertson will now have to do as

he’s told.


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