Anil Thakraney: Omnicom/Publicis merger: Nothing will change

31 Jul,2013

By Anil Thakraney


I have been reading articles/posts in the trade press on ‘the ad world’s biggest merger’, and I find them half-amusing. Reporters/columnists have been scurrying around trying to find an interesting angle, and industry chiefs have been belting out the usual clichés.


Well, here’s the thing: Life will go on as usual. The conflict of interest theory is bollocks, as has been proved by previous mergers, clients will continue to get serviced by their existing agencies. If advertisers sack their agencies, it’s mainly to do with the substandard work they might be doing (especially in the digital space where many traditional agencies continue to struggle), and not because of international shareholding changes.


And no, there shan’t be any mass layoffs either, that’s not the reason advertising networks merge. In fact, both, Omnicom and Publicis leaders, would want as less disturbance as possible, they would desire status quo on all levels, so that clients don’t feel edgy and employees don’t feel insecure. In other words, as an employee, whether you are based in Kuala Lumpur or Chicago or Mumbai or Paris, your life will go on as always.


Some people have alluded to the likely ‘clash of culture and values’ between an American and a French organization, and I say that’s nonsense. Politicians of the two nations may have an ideological conflict over the Iraq war but businessmen know only one currency, and that’s cash. As long as the money tree grows, ‘culture and value’ differences get sorted in double quick time.


Reportedly, Sir Martin Sorrell has stated that the deal is bad for Omnicom’s shareholders. Well, it would be out of character for Sorrell to be a cheerleader for the merger, but yes, that’s the only real impact: It’s the shareholders of the two networks who need to study the fine print, it’s only their lives that get hugely impacted.


So then why merge at all? For just one reason: To improve media buying efficiencies. Think about it as two families, who otherwise stay separately, joining hands to shop at the local fish market. They would get a better price for machhi, and having achieved that, the families return home to their routine lives, and cook the fish the way each likes it. Which is why nothing changes.


However, there’s one problem with the deal: The big bosses of Omnicom and Publicis will run the show together, as equal partners, there’s no one single leader. This structure seldom works, there can never be two swords in one sheath. I guess in their hurry to raise the toast, Maurice Levy and John Wren forgot this age old maxim.


PS: Haha, and I thought only Arnab babu does sensational television interviews like these. Clearly, there are Arnab clones all over the world media. This is the classic case of pakaoing the guest for the sake of pakaoing. Enjoy!




Anil Thakraney is a senior journalist and commentator. He is also Editor-at-Large, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached via Twitter at @anilthakraney


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