By Mike Drexler
Much is being written, spoken and even just thought about why the Omnicom-Publicis proposed merger failed to materialize. I’d like to add my voice to the commentary. In my opinion it seemed to be a huge ego trip for both parties. What a thrill to create the biggest advertising holding company in the world. Imagine for one party to make it happen before retirement and for another to run it with all the power it engenders in a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry.
These were two culturally different agencies and co-leadership rarely works, let alone with such different operating styles. There was no compelling financial reason to do it. So was it talent? Media leverage? Resources? Operating efficiency? Geographic expansion, tax inversion? Probably not really any of these. Neither party desperately needed the other so it came down to unresolved power and control. These are two very smart, strong -willed guys who thought they could figure it out as it progressed. It’s also interesting that the reason behind the proposed merger was never convincingly conveyed (at least not in the press). Whether it was internally explained effectively either I don’t know. But according to public opinion and even public statements made by some advertisers it was never an altogether positive occurrence. What could really be in it for clients or potential clients that they already couldn’t provide?
So I ask the question “what did the proposed Omnicom-Publicis merger have to do with client business?” One of the big problems for marketers and agencies today continues to be infrastructure. A merger like this only exacerbates the situation. Holding companies trying to put assets together so everyone can work harmoniously and bring real integration and incremental value to clients. Advertisers keep telling me they need to have their agencies coordinate and manage activities more effectively. Some advertisers say there are already too many agency units to deal with. That the industry is plagued with too many chefs and they don’t all work harmoniously. They want proper integration and accountability.
The principles of advertising are the same as they always were. That the goal is still building client business and profitable ROI. But the business is infinitely more complex. With expanded marketing communication tools and hundreds of traditional media outlets, thousands of websites including digital search, video, social networks and smart phones, tablets, desktops and laptops not to mention emerging new mobile devices, how do advertisers get their arms around the most effective way to solve their marketing requirements. It’s not about being the biggest. It’s about managing specific client business with the resources they need and developing a genuine relationship with cost controls in place to manage compensation.
As this dizzying world unfolds let’s worry more about the best way to keep pace with change by understanding how to cohesively develop the building blocks for each client to achieve the profitable return they expect and pay for.