Is TBWA on the menu for ambitious Lucky Generals?

Independent London agency Lucky Generals is talking to Omnicom about selling a stake in the agency. The agency announced last year it was trying to build a marcoms group with the first investment sports marketing agency Dark Horses).

Co-founder Helen Calcraft says:”We have been fortunate enough to have been contacted by a number of potential investors in recent months, and we have had some conversations with Omnicom but I have no news at this time, other than to confirm that Lucky Generals is not in merger talks.”

The Drum reckons that a deal with Omnicom’s TBWA is on the cards, which might lead to ructions at the existing London agency which has revived, to a degree, chiefly thanks to Lidl. Omnicom revived another of its UK outposts, DDB, by buying adam&eve a few years back and putting it in charge of a merged agency. Calcraft is suggesting a more arms-length arrangement, at least financially.

Omnicom has been busy in the newbie agency stakes recently, launching “data-driven” media agency Hearts & Science to handle AT&T and Procter & Gamble in the US and DDB-based We Are Unlimited to handle McDonald’s creative there. It’s still trying to thrash out a deal with adam&eve’s founders aimed at keeping them in the fold following the completion of their earn-out from DDB.

Thie deal waters have become muddied recently by Accenture Interactive’s purchase of London creative agency Karmarama, bringing a new wave of big, rich potential owner/supporters into the marketplace. This may have prompted Omnicom to get a move on.

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Do indie agencies need a big daddy to move forward? Most will say they do, at least if the plan involves international work. Big global companies increasingly approach holding companies first so indies are excluded.

Another source of finance, of course, are the public markets which provide the dosh for Omnicom itself and its peers WPP and Interpublic. But smaller agencies seem reluctant to try their hand there although it’s paid off mightily in the past (at least in boosting the founders’ bank balances). With the London stock market booming thanks to the post-Brexiit vote dramatic drop in the pound that might be another option for the Generals and their ambitious rivals. But a public listing these days means a high level of financial disclosure. M&C Saatchi group has done OK though, even as the flagship London agency has struggled.

So far the Generals have borne out Napoleon’s maxim (he preferred “lucky generals”). The next move is clearly a big one. Maybe they’ve decided that to win really big accounts (the agency handles the likes of Premier Inn, Paddy Power and Pot Noodle) a deal is required.

Best to sup from this bowl with a long spoon but Calcraft and creative boss Danny Brooke-Taylor know this well enough, having experienced the disastrous MCBD merger with Dare.

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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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