There’s a pleasing symmetry to the news of a Bartle Bogle Hegarty
breakaway in the same week that WPP seems certain to snare Young &
Rubicam in its maw .
The triumph for WPP, of course, is not simply to be able to reshape an
under-exploited agency, but to ascend to the top of the global agency
rankings. And no matter that WPP was big enough before, being number one
will always hold a special relevance - ask Omnicom, which now slips down
to second place.
For clients there are clear potential benefits from such consolidation,
not only in terms of improved agency resource but also in terms of
access to a broader sweep of companies across continents and a more
cost-efficient and coherent international media offering. Once client
conflict subsides as an issue (and it will have to), consolidation holds
few downsides for international advertisers.
But for the people who go to make up these new merged groupings, life
will not always change for the better. Apart from the obvious (the
ramifications of hostile takeover, redundancies, cultural and physical
upheavals), the life of a smaller cog in a bigger wheel may remove for
many the reasons why they were drawn into advertising. For an industry
peopled by fantastic individualistic talent and based on a service
ethos, the inexorable drive towards the global mega-corporation holds
some new and real challenges.
How many people will read this week’s front page story about the BBH
breakaway with a twinge of envy? And how many of those former
entrepreneurs who have sold out to a multinational will remember the
willy-shrinking agonies of the start-up risk and the ecstasy of their
first new-business triumph with nostalgic fondness.
There’s no doubt that much of the lure of the new dotcom companies is
the chance to work for yourself, shape something and possibly make your
fortune. So it’s fantastic to see that in the era of the dotcom
brain-drain, where the advertising and media industries are losing so
much of their entrepreneurial talent to new-media companies, people are
still eager to put their shirt on the line to launch an advertising
It’s downright cheering that the UK ad business retains the
entrepreneurial thirst which has contributed so much to making this a
world-beating advertising market.
Indeed, with the likes of Mars and Unilever increasingly happy to tap
into local creative talent to supplement their multi-national rosters,
the opportunities for new agencies are more interesting than ever, as
Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy is so eloquently proving.
The problem is, of course, that for the ad industry to offer the
ultimate route to making a million - and so continue to compete, in this
sense, with the new-media companies - every start-up will inevitably
have a sale as its goal. Just ask Messers Bartle, Bogle and Hegarty.
Caroline Marshall is on maternity leave