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
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
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 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
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.