A view from the top
A view from Peter Scott

A view from the top

London in August is a delight. Empty. Having notched up an Avios mile or two this year already, I'm more than happy to Skype New York and Shanghai this week for a quick round-up on our operations there.

All seem to be doing well. In fact, very, very well, which is nice. Stress takes a back seat for another day.

Back at 60 Great Portland Street and all the online chatter is about the Publicis/Omnicom merger. There’s much head-scratching. And echoes of my initial response to the Daimler/Chrysler merger in 1998 ("Why would they do that?") are amplified as I try to make sense of the news.

The world wanted a better mousetrap. Not a bigger one. Back to the drawing board, guys.

Scale seems the main aim of the deal. When it comes to media buying – of which I was an early advocate – you can see why they would argue that greater scale is a powerful selling (and buying) point.

But media buying power is already concentrated into so few powerful hands in our industry that, unless Messieurs Lévy and Wren plan to create one mega-buying portal handling all of the combined business, it’s not easy to see how it will make a big difference for clients.

Take out media buying – can we really see any other areas where scale is going to deliver for what is a diverse group of stakeholders?

I guess investors may be happy that, instead of having to tax their brains picking individual agency stocks, they can now plough their money into a fund of funds that spreads risk as well as the very best hand-picked portfolio.

But for clients? Aaah, clients…

Time will tell. There are no immediate obvious benefits but, if the merger leaves talent and companies unscathed, there are no immediate downsides either – save perhaps the feeling that, over time, they will all become pawns in a larger game.

And then you have the talent. Creative. Strategic. Technologists. Developers. Account management. And much more besides.

What’s the vision that will get them out of bed early in the morning and staggering home exhausted the night before the pitch of the century?

Scale? Cost savings of $500 million? Becoming rounding errors in a game of mega-bucks? Growing this new behemoth faster than the market? Sounds like more and more financial pressures are looming.

Which doesn’t exactly appeal to me. And I doubt it will do for their 130,000 people.

For now, the PR battle seems to be going against them. But it is August. The battle for hearts and minds will resume when schools go back and London’s streets are packed again. Who knows how this will play out.

Perhaps regulators will give them the opportunity to pause for thought. Perhaps they will plough on regardless. Or perhaps it will work and, in time, we will wonder why we started out so sceptical.

But I know the other deal filling my news pages these past couple of weeks – that of David Droga’s agreement with William Morris Endeavor – may be as big or bigger for our industry. That long-awaited alignment between Hollywood, content and technology is pregnant with promise.

As a client, I know which story I’d prefer to be reading about impacting my agency.

Peter Scott is the worldwide chief executive at Engine