Tom Denford and David Indo from ID Comms: could Accenture buy Publicis Groupe?

On this week’s #MediaSnack Tom and David look at the rumours (and plausible evidence) that one of the major advertising holding companies will become an acquisition target for one of the big consultant or audit firms.

These whispers first became public in Cannes this year when a few people were suggesting a WPP/Accenture merger was being discussed. WPP quickly refuted such talk.

Nevertheless, Tom and David examine two companies that might be in the mix for acquisition: Accenture Interactive, the ‘agency’-like division which has been on an acquisition spree in recent years, and Publicis Groupe.

First, they compare the relative sizes of Accenture and Publicis to highlight that the consulting giant dwarves the French marketing services group both in revenues and headcount.

Second, they look at the fortunes of each company. Accenture has seen a progressive rise in share price up 70 per cent since 2015, whilst Publicis is at the same level today as it was two years ago.

Publicis is better positioned to sell or be bought than some other holding companies, they argue. The arguments over leadership that caused 2013’s failed Publicis Omnicom merger would seem to be removed with the departure of long-standing CEO Maurice Levy. His successor Arthur Sadoun, who is understood to be readying the business for a leaner future, is less likely to be an obstacle to a merger or acquisition.

The due diligence prepared ahead of the failed Omnicom deal would also have given Publicis Groupe a good insight into its business, its strengths and weaknesses and synergies of integration. They will know that the consulting groups still covet Sapient, their digital consulting business, and would also be keen to acquire stellar agency brand names like Saatchi, BBH and Leo Burnett.

But if Accenture is the most likely to buy and Publicis the most likely to sell, is this the perfect marriage? Tom and David highlight that cultural alignment could be a barrier, although the fact that Accenture has a French CEO might alleviate Publicis shareholder concerns.

An alternative might be for Accenture to look at fellow American IPG, whilst the French consultancy Cap Gemini has also made noises and might make a better suitor for Publicis.

On this week’s Good Week Bad Week, Tom and David celebrate the fact that it’s a good week for the next generation of media agency leadership as four UK agency CEO’s announce their departures, leaving gaps for fresh new ideas and new leaders.

It has been a bad week for Dentsu-Aegis Network in the UK as their largest client, the UK Government, announced a statutory review. A £140m buying pitch will start in February next year.

The government’s lead marketer Alex Aiken has laid out a bold agenda to drive improved transparency and focus on greater value creation from media buying not cost price reduction.

ID Comms attended the initial agency briefing on Thursday at HM Treasury with leaders of the UK’s major network agencies and independents and were pleased to see the government open to a more collaborative approach, unveiling a plan that will seek input from agencies on the process itself in advance of the start of the pitch.

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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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