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Publicis Groupe/BBH deal starts to unravel as key agency Neogama loses two biggest accounts

Not all fairy tales have a happy ending. One such is the marriage of convenience between Brazilian hotshop Neogama, its micro-network affiliate BBH and Publicis Groupe.

Readers will recall that, a little over six months ago, Publicis chief Maurice Lévy bought out the 51 per cent of BBH PG did not already own. A useful by-product of the deal was that he acquired not only BBH’s 34 per cent stake in one of Brazil’s hottest agency properties, but the majority shareholding of its founder and creative supremo, Alexandre Gama (left), at the same time. Neatly, Lévy solved the creative succession crisis at BBH with the same stroke of his pen – by appointing Gama as BBH’s global creative chief, replacing Sir John Hegarty.

Alas, the deal has worked out somewhat better for Gama than for Lévy and Publicis. Gama managed to bank his cheque, but Neogama has just lost about 40 per cent of its revenue, and two of its principal clients. Or so I hear.

It is common knowledge that one of the reasons Gama was hawking his majority stake in the first place was that he feared his agency was too reliant upon a single account, that of Brazilian bank Bradesco. Indeed, rumours soon began to surface that the bank was about to review. Well, now it has: and placed the account with McCann.

For Interpublic, McCann’s parent, Neogama’s plight is, however, a double joy. Another major Neogama client – this time multinational – has also fallen into its lap. I mean Omo (“Dirt is Good”), which has moved to Lowe.

In retrospect, we can see this was an accident waiting to happen. As is well known, PG is a Procter & Gamble agency group, and Omo is owned by Unilever. Under the status quo ante, Neogama had an element of protection from client conflict, in that BBH – itself a major Unilever agency network – was still majority-owned by its founding partners (i.e., Nigel Bogle and Hegarty). All that ring-fencing was swept away by the Lévy deal.

It will interesting to see who gets the blame for this cock-up. My money is on Jean-Yves Naouri, the once but not future king of Publicis.

One thing you can be sure of: it won’t be the Silver Fox himself, who now seems comfortably ensconced in a permanent chairman role, despite recent protestations that he was – at 70 – on the point of retiring.

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Alexandre Gama bbh bradesco brazil deal Interpublic Jean-Yves Naouri Maurice Levy mccann neogama omo procter & gamble publicis groupe unilever

About Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith is one of the most incisive and knowledgeable commentators on global marketing. He was a long-time editor of Marketing Week during the period when it was the UK's leading marketing, media and advertising specialist publication. Visit Stuart Smith Blog.
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