B.C. Ad Agencies React to Publicis-Omnicom

The Omnicom and Publicis logos.

We asked B.C.’s top advertising talent for their take on last weekend’s massive merger of marketing and advertising titans—New York-based Omnicom Group and Paris-based Publicis Groupe SA. The merger has created the largest marketing communications company on the planet

The shock waves of last weekend’s massive merger of marketing and advertising titans—New York-based Omnicom Group and Paris-based Publicis Groupe SA—are still being felt. The merger has created the largest marketing communications company on the planet, with a combined US$22.7 billion in revenues and a $35.1 billion market cap. There are also currently 130,000 (very nervous) global employees.

The new company, called Publicis Omnicom Group, unites some of the advertising industry’s biggest agencies— Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, BBDO, DDB and TBWA. We asked some of B.C.’s most influential advertising agency talent about their take on the seismic shift, how it affects their day job as well as impact on clients.

Chris Staples, Co-founder and Creative Director, Rethink
“If I was a client, I’d want the senior leadership of my agency focused on my business challenges, instead of the internal politics surrounding a big merger. Even smaller agencies within these two big networks will be completely distracted by the drama about to play-out between head offices in Paris and New York. Also, given these big networks’ obsession with Wall Street, agency presidents will be under even pressure to squeeze more profits out of their clients in the next 18 months.”

Frank Palmer, Chairman & CEO, DDB Canada 
“Why should we all be surprised as mergers are shaping all industries in today’s business world—airlines, department stores, AOL/Time Warner, telcos, grocery chains, automobile companies to name just a few. Google, Yahoo, Facebook and others have challenged the advertising world in recent years. 

Did they all think that the large holding companies wouldn’t respond to competition? Already there are two or more sides talking about the merger. Most are the naysayers who would have loved to be able to do the deal, and are jealous or green with envy. I’ve also already heard through the social media grapevine comments coming from some of the smaller to mid-sized agencies who are creating excuses to talk to the merged companies’ clients. All mergers are made with good reasons. Growth stimulation is one. Offering our valued clients better media efficiencies is another. 

Today all of our clients demand the best in class and at a price that’s competitive. The combined resources of Publicis and Omnicom will create more synergies, cost savings and a larger talent pool of professionals that will be difficult to duplicate. At this early date, I feel that it’s an exciting time to be in the business of advertising/marketing if you are working for and with Omnicom and Publicis. Just like sports, in business you need the very best talent in order to win. Our game has just got much better.” 

Rachel Thexton, Partner, Dunn PR 
“Public relations teams are focusing increasingly on rich content creation and hyper-local communications strategies that allow the consumer to spread the message and wave the flag for a brand. With a merger of this size, clients will have a wealth of talent and resources available to them but my concern is the potential for a lack of understanding of local markets and the focus needed to successfully communicate with innovative and tailored strategies. Smaller shops in a local market focus almost solely on servicing their communities and tend to have a rich understanding of the culture and what it takes to reach them.” 

Jordan Eshpeter, Busines Development and Marketing Lead, Domain 7
“The merger brings together two agencies certain they’re acting in the best interest of their clients. Their new-found scale boosts purchasing power. Their “bigger data” targets display ads more smartly. But, what’s missing? The customer. In everything I’ve read, the customer wasn’t mentioned once. Does this conglomerate mean more delightful customer experiences, beautiful and entertaining content or innovative and helpful tools? These are what advertising is becoming. Omnicon and Publicis may now be the world’s largest advertising agency, but to keep pace with Google, Facebook and whoever’s next, they’ll need to serve customers, not clients.”

Gregory Hegger, Director, brand.LIVE
“There’s a great deal of talk regarding client conflicts. I don’t foresee clients running for the hills due to conflict issues. Apple and Blackberry currently sit happily under Publicis’ network of companies, while Samsung and Sony both currently deal with Omnicom. Similarly, DDB Vancouver has long managed Subaru and Volkswagen accounts. Clients have been used to holding companies with a wide network of clients.

I’m not saying it’s a non-issue, it just won’t be as big as people might think it will be. Operationally, the wider pool of services look good on paper, especially Publicis’ network of digital agencies. These, along with global connections, should help the behemoth capture more market share in areas it has typically lagged behind. What will be most interesting to watch however, is how the merger will affect the creative capital that has made both these groups so successful. The likelihood that someone might not like their new boss is a reality of mergers. brand.LIVE has worked with various local agencies to integrate brands into events through sponsorships, example Honda Celebration of Light, in which we work with Elvis Communication, owned by EDC and Vision7. We also work with GMR (owned by Omnicom) for several TELUS sponsorship activations. I don’t foresee us being overly affected by the merger, as the decision for sponsorship involvement ultimately lies with the client. For most Vancouver agencies, I think it will be business as usual. It might just take a bit longer in the accounting process.”

David Walker, Partner, Saint Bernadine Mission Communications
“From what I’ve read so far on this, the merger seems be positioned as being in the best interests of these two companies, their long term health and their shareholders. How it impacts their clients and if it betters their ability to service those clients seems to be an afterthought and or a non-existent consideration.

At St. Bernadine, we fundamentally believe we’re in the service industry and our clients’ businesses should be the primary focus of our endeavours. Furthermore, we’re increasingly hearing from marketers about their desire to partner with independent agencies specifically to avoid agency network conflicts, real or perceived. Selfishly, we’re glad to see these two behemoths merge. It helps solidify our competitive advantage and moves us up one spot in the agency global rankings.”