It is perhaps understandable that insiders at Publicis Communications UK were keen to downplay the significance of the creation of a single dedicated unit to handle its Procter & Gamble account, based adjacent to the Saatchi & Saatchi office on Chancery Lane.
The move will see all the teams that currently work on the business relocate from their bases at Leo Burnett, Publicis Worldwide and MSL to an office that will not become part of Saatchis (we are told) but just happens to be on the same "campus". With Publicis Media having won P&G’s media account this week, including the press buying business previously handled by MediaCom, these media buyers will also sit within the as-yet unnamed team P&G-style set up – and that looks very much like a return to a full-service model.
For now, at least, they stress it is little more than a geographical move – a co-location of teams on to one site with all the economies of scale that offers, although no redundancies will necessarily follow. This is one efficiency that P&G has been demanding from its agency suppliers as it seeks to deliver the $2bn savings on global marketing spend it has promised shareholders, of which $500m is in reduced agency fees. It is likely that this cost-cutting measure too played a role in ensuring that the media business remained with Publicis.
The staff who move there will remain on their mother agencies’ payrolls and the brands will contribute revenue to their historic respective agencies’ bottom lines – there is no single P&L and the unit will operate a cost centre rather than a revenue generator in its own right. Again this comes with the caveat "for now".
For both P&G and Publicis Communications the move seems to make sense. P&G will have access to suppliers, including data analysts, PR and search, in one location rather than multiple sites. Publicis Communications can absorb any of the cuts in fees that it has probably been made to swallow and hopefully provide P&G – its one client that is shared across multiple agencies – with an "irresistibly superior" solution to the one it had previously.
But emotionally, it might be something rather different. Many of its agencies have longstanding relationships with P&G – Leo Burnett has a history of working with P&G that stretches back more than six decades – and if this is the start of the dismantling of this on a more global level in favour of a team P&G outfit, then some sentimentalists might be left reaching for their hankies. But this is not a business for the soft-hearted, and Publicis Communications seems to have come up with a neat solution to keeping P&G within its grasp, even if the remaining staff at Publicis and Burnett might be left rattling around like peas on a drum.