PERSPECTIVE: Aegis and Zenith’s talks reveal value of global network

The news that Aegis and Zenith Media have been circling each other for the past few weeks with a view to a merger comes as no real surprise.

The news that Aegis and Zenith Media have been circling each other

for the past few weeks with a view to a merger comes as no real


Tentative talks between the two have been on and off for a couple of

years and the geographical spread of the companies makes for a neat fit

- Aegis’s Carat is the behemoth of Europe, while Zenith is the only

media dependant able to claim global credentials.

But while one insider described the talks as being at the flirtation

stage, it’s clear how the attraction began. The dynamics of both

companies are centred in London. Aegis has its headquarters in the UK

now, and Zenith Worldwide’s chairman, John Perriss, is a veteran of the

UK media scene. While other media companies are writhing with

frustration at the tardiness of their US paymasters to invest in global

media brands, this link with the UK, the birthplace of the media

independent, could be crucial.

Scratch beneath the surface of well-known media networks, and many are

revealed as bare skeletons comprising a few standalone offices, a few

in-house departments with their own headed notepaper where cohesion

demands, and equity-linked joint ventures with little in common beyond

the need to claim membership of an international operation.

Try to put a global spin on these brands and the picture is even more

laughable. Those international agency networks with their homes in the

US - where media planning and buying is still not fully recognised as an

economically viable standalone function - have been slow to view media

as a global business.

One anecdote highlights the problem. Last year, Carat was shrewd enough

to acquire a US marketing consultancy, Media Marketing Assessment, which

monitors agencies’ media performance on behalf of a number of


Monitoring, of course, means having access to media plans, schedules,

costs and so on. When a visiting UK media chief from an international ad

agency pointed out to his US counterpart - currently subjected to such

monitoring - that the agency’s competitive media data was being given

the twice over by a company now owned by Carat, his US colleague merely

responded: ’Yeah, that French media buyer, right?’

Carat has global ambitions and while no-one would suggest its US

consultancy would abuse its position by using the data for competitive

advantage, the message is clear. Many US agency heads remain naive about

recognising the business of media as a global one and the strides being

made by the European companies.

Which brings us back to why Carat is interested in Zenith - great minds

think alike. Either company would be an excellent media partner for an

agency serious about developing a top global media product. And while

the likes of Grey, MacManus and Young & Rubicam continue to drag their

heels on this issue, two of the top prizes may well be about to win each