John Lewis agency Adam & Eve, bought for £60m by Omnicom yesterday, seems to have executed a reverse takeover of flagging DDB London as the Adam & Eve-ites have emerged firmly on top in the merged agency’s management.
The three A&E founders James Murphy (pictured), David Golding and Ben Priest becomes CEO, CSO and executive creative director respectively with other Adam & Eve-ites Ben Tollett and Emer Stamp also becoming ECDs. Of the DDB old guard former CEO Stephen Woodford becomes chairman while Tribal DDB bossTom Roberts is also staying on.
So there’ll be a number of expensive departures for Omnicom to shell out for as well as (possibly) the maximum post earn-out payment of £60m to the three founders (who stand to make about £15m each) and other A&E shareholders. Some business might move as well; DDB handles upscale retailer Harvey Nichols, which might clash with John Lewis, while DDB handles the Financial Times against A&E’s Telegraph.
So it’s a big bet by Omnicom but clearly an attempt to replicate what happened at the A&E founders’ previous home, WPP’s Young & Rubicam, back in 1999. Y&R London had been in the doldrums for ages with a succession of big name managers trying and failing to get the lumbering beast moving after a brief glory period under chairman John Banks and new business director Rupert Howell in pre-WPP days.
An exasperated Sir Martin Sorrell eventually uncorked his cheque book and bought newbie agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe who, to some people’s surprise, succeeded in injecting fizz and vim into the place. RKCR/Y&R is now a top five agency in the UK with a creative reputation to match.
DDB’s creative work is much better than Y&R’s ever was but it has struggled to land big accounts apart from long-time supporter Volkswagen. Last year it lost £36m Virgin Media to BBH, confounding its efforts to show that it had become an ‘integrated’ agency, as good at websites and brochures as it was at TV.
This seems to have been the catalyst for Omnicom’s John Wren to uncork his own mighty cheque book.