What started as a daft piece in The Mail on Sunday about the
possibility of M&C Saatchi acquiring Saatchi & Saatchi (this column
isn’t long enough to list the reasons why not) has snowballed into a
series of articles on merger mania in the agency world. As Campaign has
been commenting on this for the past two years or more, it is hardly
surprising to see such coverage. What remains mystifying is why there’s
such huffing and puffing about it, both in public and private, from the
heads of some of the agencies involved.
Here’s what’s commonly regarded as the hit-list (in alphabetical order):
Cordiant, Grey, Havas, Leo Burnett, MacManus, Publicis, Saatchi &
Saatchi, True North, Young & Rubicam. To which I’d add Aegis, Hakuhodo,
Zenith and several smaller Japanese agencies (great bargains at the
Although some of the above may in the short to mid-term acquire one
another or merge, in the longer term the buyers are likely to be Dentsu,
Interpublic Group, Omnicom, WPP and possibly Young & Rubicam or Leo
Burnett. The last two appear on both lists, partly because they are on
the cusp in terms of size, and partly through affiliation with Dentsu -
whose power should not be overlooked just because it has botched Europe
more than once.
This, the consensus has it, will become the global super league. And,
although several on the target list will bristle at being there, it is
difficult to see reasons why such a super league should not evolve.
Every time we write about the subject of Cordiant, for example, we are
privately disparaged and another postage stamp is dispatched to all
staff with a list of the group’s global clients on the back. But, in
truth, the targets list is the inevitable result of advertising having
become a truly global business.
It’s not made up by Campaign, and no amount of huffing and puffing will
deter the likes of Heinz and other clients with genuinely global
aspirations from seeking the best possible global service. Rightly or
wrongly, this has involved putting flags on maps in the past. Today, it
means having a class act across the US, Europe and Asia - not just the
odd pockets of local talent.
Where networks are weak(er), it makes sense to acquire and fill in the
holes. It is bizarre to believe that advertising should somehow be
immune to such global business trends, particularly in the immediate
context of huge client deals such as BP Amoco and Arco, Ford and Volvo,
Renault and Nissan, and the inexorable consolidation of the financial
This may at first glance appear to have little to do with the day-to-day
creation of advertising. And that’s true - until you try to get the work
signed off locally, or you suddenly find (see the Gillette story on the
front page) that you’ve lost your day-to-day account because of a
decision taken in Boston, Massachussetts.