Last week’s late evening telephone conference call at which True
North’s top brass fielded questions from senior FCB and Bozell managers
worldwide about the networks’ upcoming merger was, by all accounts, a
study in contrasts.
According to one executive who took part, the ’joyous’ questions from
FCB sounded all the more positive when compared with the meagre and
subdued contribution of their Bozell counterparts.
If this reaction has not already set alarm bells ringing at True North’s
Chicago headquarters, then it should. Because it’s all too easy for
mergers to falter through too much attention being paid to the big
picture and too little to the detail.
Nobody questions the wisdom of the marriage. True North’s purchase of
Bozell two years ago failed to provide it with sufficient global reach
or credibility. The danger is that with FCB chiefs in control and the
Bozell name disappearing outside its US heartland, FCB triumphalism and
self-obsession may undermine the merger process.
Having announced the marriage, True North must implement it at maximum
speed. Delays breed disaffected employees and, sometimes, catastrophic
consequences: just remember what happened during the 1985 global merger
of Benton & Bowles and D’Arcy MacManus Masius. Ray Morgan, B&B’s media
director in London, later recalled how the marriage was orchestrated by
remote control from New York by short-sighted executives more worried
about their places within the new order. ’They would not take decisions
about one part before they had got the whole thing worked out. Before
they got to us, some of us had got there first and worked it out for
The result? Morgan defected with 18 staff and #32 million worth of media
business. True North be warned.