PERSPECTIVE: Mergers reveal that nothing and no-one is safe from danger

Two merger stories this week, both prompted by the need to huddle together for financial warmth. The proposed marriage of Carlton and Granada marks the biggest merger in the history of ITV broadcasting and is explored opposite and on p14. This leaves me to comment on the merger of the Publicis-owned D'Arcy into the Burnett, Publicis and Saatchi networks.

At one time, not all that long ago, it was inconceivable that a derivative of the 96-year-old D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles agency name should no longer exist. An earlier incarnation (Masius Wynne-Williams) was once JWT's only serious competitor for the top position among British agencies. A story goes that in the early 70s its august founder, Jack Wynne-Williams, rebuffed an approach from Maurice Saatchi by promising to look in the petty cash to see if he had enough small change to buy Saatchi & Saatchi.

Thirty years later and the landscape is entirely different. D'Arcy's new owner, Publicis, has bought its way to the top table, created 650 millionaires via its purchase of D'Arcy's former parent company Bcom3, and acted decisively to stem further decline at a once-great advertising brand.

As soon as D'Arcy lost Mars back in May, and with it $100 million in revenue, its future was in question. When Procter & Gamble - Publicis' key shared client across its networks - gave the nod for the axe to fall, D'Arcy's demise was inevitable. The conflicts at local level will be legion, of course. But one is at least left with the impression that Maurice Levy - no fan of mergers to date - has for once acted swiftly to stem further client losses.

As ever, the official statement begs as many questions as it answers.

It has all the hallmarks of a hastily cobbled-together panacea forced out lest it leak. It offers scant comfort to the 6,000 D'Arcy staff in 72 countries whose jobs are now at risk.

The statement makes no reference to cost savings or how the absorption of D'Arcy will affect Publicis group finances. It trumpets that "Publicis will now be the sole group to be able to offer clients three distinct global networks". But we know that WPP and Omnicom also own three established networks apiece, so that is simply not true. It says that the D'Arcy top dogs John Farrell and Lee Garfinkel "have been asked" to head Publicis global marketing services and creative offerings respectively. They may have been asked but have they accepted? And so the questions could go on.

If there is one lesson to be learned from this week's news it is that when the City, Wall Street and the Paris Bourse are in the driving seat no advertising name and no advertising culture is sacred. The giant marketers who are busy culling brands like there's no tomorrow (Unilever, Nestle, General Motors and P&G, for example) might ask why should it be?

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