Can all-conquering Mcgarrybowen crack Europe as it takes over Dentsu agencies?

Mcgarrybowen was the US agency of the year in 2011, winning a string of big accounts with its no-nonsense old-style Madison Avenue approach to business. These included Bud Light, Burger King, Sears, United Continental and sone brands from Kraft.

The agency, owned by Japanese giant Dentsu and headed by 72-year old former Y&R veteran John McGarry (pictured) has looked like an international network in the making ever since it was sold to Dentsu in 2008 and now it’s going to take over Dentsu’s European operations, headed by former RKCR/Y&R partner Jim Kelly.

This means taking over Dentsu’s offices in Dusseldorf and London. Dentsu’s Brussels office is being sold to ad production company Tag, intriguingly. Is Tag about to become an agency?

So can Mcgarrybowen crack it in Europe where Dentsu has, so far, failed? Well the agency, which has increased its New York and Chicago staff to 800 recently, has apparently summoned London’s finest headhunters to go shopping for talent, suggesting that at least one of its big clients (others include Disney and JP Morgan) has promised it some business.

If so this will cause alarums at London’s CHI, among others, which was recently hired to handle Burger King’s £12m UK account.

Mcgarrybowen is hardly a hotshop, being more the proverbial safe pair of hands. It’s easy to see the appeal of that in the rather conservative US market (the agency’s performance speaks for itself). UK-headquartered agencies tend to major on creativity, with mixed results it has to be said (the standard of UK campaigns so far this year, from anywhere, has been dire).

Owner Dentsu recently terminated its ten-year deal with Maurice Levy’s Publicis Groupe at a cost to PG of €644m although Dentsu’s profit on the deal is reported to be around €20m. But it will still have banked a much bigger chunk of PG’s money.

So the highly-regarded Kelly (left), if he stays on which he seems likely to do, and whoever Mcgarrybowen ships over from the States, will have a lot of money to spend. There are plenty of recent UK start-ups who might be tempted by Dentsu’s cash, especially as the agency seems to have a more hands-off approach than others such as WPP. Is Kelly chums with John Lewis agency Adam & Eve, itself a breakaway from WPP-owned RKCR/Y&R?

It’s an intriguing prospect.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.