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Post-merger blues may prompt changes at Omnicom

The sighs of relief in Omnicom-owned agencies were loud when the merger with Publicis Groupe was called off (as, no doubt, they were in the PG equivalents). Not so, of course, at the two companies’ respective HQs.

images-4But it might not be a case of back to business as usual. Many people saw the proposed merger as a bid for immortality on the part of Omnicom boss John Wren and PG’s Maurice Levy (left), both veterans. They were to be joint CEOs and then Wren would take over with Levy moving up to chairman. This would have meant the three (they hoped two) big marcoms companies would be helmed by men approaching or in their 70s (Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP is approaching that anniversary) for possibly years to come.

Which wouldn’t have been very pleasing for the next generation of would-be global ad supremos – most notably, perhaps, BBDO CEO Andrew Robertson (below).

Unknown-11Of the three men running Omnicom’s big agencies – the others are Chuck Brymer at DDB and Tom Carroll at TBWA – Robertson, a Brit, is easily the youngest. Omnicom’s senior execs seem to go on for ever but, sometime or other, changes will need to be made.

Now, after the failed merger, the oldies don’t look quite so wise. Wren and Levy clearly under-estimated the difficulty of pulling off the deal (you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that the choice of CFO was likely to be an issue) and completely failed to articulate a compelling strategy for the deal in the first place.

Shareholders might be thinking that someone else should have a go – as might the serried ranks of someone else’s. It’s quite possible that, when the oldies do start to move aside (Omnicom chairman and CEO Wren handing over the CEO baton to someone else, for example) there’ll be further changes in train.

DDB’s Brymer and TBWA’s Carroll might decide that they’ve done their time. Neither network has performed particularly well recently and TBWA has a big fight on its hands to hang on to Apple, which now boasts a pretty big in-house ad agency of its own. Robertson’s BBDO, on the other hand, is motoring nicely although its awards pre-eminence among the biggies is under fierce attack from WPP’s Ogilvy.

It also won’t have escaped Omnicom shareholders’ attention that a new, younger boss would serve to highlight the veteran status of WPP’s Sorrell as he enters his eighth decade.

As for Publicis that’s another story – as ever.

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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.
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