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
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