Simons Palmer/TBWA Merger: Simons succumbs to TBWA’s offer

It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in advertising: TBWA and Simons Palmer Clemmow Johnson are to join forces to create a shop powerful enough to take on the UK’s top ten agencies.

It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in advertising: TBWA and Simons

Palmer Clemmow Johnson are to join forces to create a shop powerful

enough to take on the UK’s top ten agencies.

Paul Simons, the chairman of Simons Palmer, will be the chief executive,

while Jonathan Hoare, chairman of TBWA, will become chairman of the

merged agency.

The deal is still being hammered out, but the appointment of Simons

suggests that Simons Palmer is likely to have the greater influence in

the merged shop. Several questions, however, remain unanswered. Are five

creative directors too many? What will happen to the other companies in

the Simons Palmer Group? How will client conflicts be resolved?

Where will the inevitable fall-out come from?

Trevor Beattie, the creative director of TBWA, will be joined in his

King’s Cross offices by Paul Hodgkinson, Andy McKay, Guy Moore and Tony

Malcolm, the four joint creative directors of Simons Palmer. Rumours

that Beattie has been unhappy at TBWA have been circulating for some

time, but the opportunity to work on Simons Palmer accounts such as

Nike, Sony Playstation and Goldfish could present him with the creative

challenge he needs.

Beattie says: ’It will mean a bigger stage to deal with and a higher

profile for the agency. I rate the Simons Palmer creative department

very highly - it is full of talented and reasonable people.’

Simons Palmer’s four creative directors are internally focused,

splitting the major accounts between them and working closely in

’diamond’ team structures with account directors and planners.

The Simons Palmer Group consists of Manning Gottlieb Media, Maher Bird

Associates, the Mission and Headlight Vision. Alasdair Ritchie, the

chairman of TBWA Europe, has confirmed that talks are in progress about

the future of these companies. The Mission and Headlight Vision may

become separate entities.

MGM could, in theory, lose out to Eurospace, the joint venture between

TBWA and Carat, when new international business is won. The merged

agency is likely to put its media into Eurospace, leaving MGM as the

second stop for media in the UK. That said, TBWA’s contract with

Eurospace is up for renewal in the short to medium term and there is

some doubt as to whether a new deal will be struck.

Maher Bird looks more certain to benefit from the merger by taking on

some of the new agency’s conflicting business. Steven Maher, its

managing director, would only say: ’MBA will remain intact and continue

to be run as an independent business with its own clients.’

Although client conflicts are minimal, there are a few question


Simons Palmer is on the IDV roster, while TBWA holds a chunk of Seagrams

business. Ritchie confirms: ’I don’t think there’ll be any discussion

there: Chivas Regal (a Seagrams’ whisky) is a big brand for us

worldwide.’ Simons Palmer lost its biggest IDV name, Drambuie, to the

Scottish agency, 1576, last year.

Nissan, which makes vans as well as cars, could object to being in the

same stable as Simons Palmer’s LDV account, although Simons Palmer’s

pitch for Mercedes-Benz, which took place this week, was not endangered

by the alliance.

However, both agencies declared themselves delighted with the union.

TBWA’s Hoare, who was in charge of securing an agency acquisition in

London, says: ’I have spent a long time looking at the marketplace.

Simons Palmer has the culture, the way of working and the creative

passion to help TBWA in its ambition to become a network with a

difference. In this sum, two and two will make five, or indeed six.’

Simons Palmer has also been actively seeking to increase its clout.

Simons points out: ’Worldwide, many clients demand outstanding

commercial thinking, combined with progressive and innovative creative

solutions. Future brand leaders will be those who redefine the rules in


Yet the cultures of the two agencies are very different. TBWA has a

traditional, corporate structure, whereas the Simons Palmer partners are

hands-on and known for their strong work ethic. Some staff are likely to

take the merger as a cue to leave, although redundancies are


TBWA has been pursuing a vigorous expansion policy since it was bought

by Omnicom in 1993. Twenty-one new offices have opened in the past two

years, and Hoare has been working hard to secure a London tie-up since

the failure of the Chiat Day merger in 1995.

Both Simons Palmer and TBWA had been courting other agencies before this

week’s announcement.

TBWA is known to have had talks with Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury, while

Simons Palmer has been linked with the WPP Group. As Simons points out:

’You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.’

Simons Palmer


Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow and Johnson launches. Early wins:

Nike,Wrangler, Virgin and BT.


Simons Palmer group takes a 70 per cent stake in Manning Gottlieb Media

and launches a below-the-line subsidiary, Matador.


Launches Maher Bird Associates, which merges with Matador.


Acrimonious split with the creative partners, Chris Palmer and Mark

Denton, following loss of BT. Andy McKay and Paul Hodgkinson become

creative directors.


Wins Sony Playstation across Europe.


Launches three new companies including the programme-maker, the Mission.

Wins Goldfish. Hires Tony Malcolm and Guy Moore as joint creative



Merges with TBWA.



The American, Bill Tragos, Frenchman, Claude Bonnage, Italian, Paolo

Ajroldi, and German, Uli Wiesendanger, launch TBWA agency in Paris.


Office opens in London.


John Bartle, Nigel Bogle and John Hegarty leave for BBH.


Merges with Holmes Knight Ritchie and Alasdair Ritchie takes the



TBWA wins pounds 20 million Nissan account.


Omnicom buys the TBWA network. Eurospace formed with Carat to handle

media. Trevor Beattie joins as creative director.


Merges with Hoare Wilkins. Wonderbra ads take the industry by storm.


Fails to merge with Chiat Day in the UK.


Merges with Simons Palmer Clemmow Johnson.