Publicis and True North ready to split

The stormy global marriage between Europe’s Publicis and True North in the US is ending in gradual divorce, with the two sides ready to offer clients the choice of aligning over a period of time with one or other of the operations.

The stormy global marriage between Europe’s Publicis and True North

in the US is ending in gradual divorce, with the two sides ready to

offer clients the choice of aligning over a period of time with one or

other of the operations.



The result will be a gradual diminution of the alliance between Publicis

and the True North-owned Foote Cone Belding in Europe.



Optimedia, the Publicis-FCB joint media buying operation, is understood

not to be under immediate threat. Senior managers say it would be in

nobody’s interest to dismantle it.



The fate of the alliance was sealed when it was revealed that True North

was about to acquire Wilkens International, the former Ayer Europe

network (Campaign, 24 January).



The deal provoked speculation that True North was creating an insurance

policy in the event of its link with Publicis breaking apart.



It also marks a watershed in the plans of Maurice Levy, the chairman of

Publicis, to build his operation into the most important global network

with a European base. A senior Publicis manager said: ’Levy wants to

take over where the Saatchi brothers left off.’



The final split reflects a recognition on both sides that the joint

venture is a turn-off for many large clients, who fear that control over

their accounts is diluted by the arrangement. A key influence in the

split is understood to be Nestle, one of Publicis’s most important

international clients.



Levy recently bought agencies in Canada, Mexico, Singapore and the

Philippines and is poised to make inroads into the US, using his

Coca-Cola and British Airways business as a lure for potential

partners.



However, True North executives claim Levy is still well short of

establishing a credible global network. They also say FCB can sustain a

significant presence in Europe without the help of Publicis.



One said: ’It’s not like it was 25 years ago. The communications

revolution means multinational clients don’t need full capabilities

everywhere.’



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