Is Publicis Octopus B2B deal another pointer agency groups are giving up on advertising?

Once upon a time any new creative agency that made an impact could expect the big ad holding companies to come knocking but it doesn’t seem to be the case these days. The last two really big deals were Omnicom for adam&eve a decade or so ago and Omnicom again for Lucky Generals, which took over TBWA in London – sort of.

These days the ad holding companies are looking elsewhere – data providers obviously but also at businesses that used to be well below the salt. The digital revolution has brought direct marketing back with a vengeance and now it seems to be having something of the same impact on business to business (B2B) agencies.

Publicis has just bought 60-strong British outfit Octopus (Octopus team below) for an undisclosed sum, to bring “strategic, creative and commercial acumen and experience to clients and B2B brands.”

It goes on: “From commerce and communications to supply chains and distribution, the B2B market is experiencing a massive transformation as a result of the pandemic. Clients traditionally operating in a B2C space are increasingly looking at alternative ways of protecting revenue and reaching new audiences.”

Is it now the case with digital that you can spend as much (or as little) on niche markets as big consumer ones? Or is no-one interested in big consumer ones any more?

Interestingly Magnus Djaba, who we thought was CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, is wheeled out in his new guise as CEO of Publicis Groupe’s UK “creative practice.” He says: “The disruption caused by the pandemic means some B2C brands are increasingly adopting a B2B2C approach (yes, really.) Brands are also facing a time of huge technological transformation and disruption, and one of the things that attracted us to Octopus Group is their technology background.

“We need to understand all the challenges our clients face, from marketing to distribution to commerce to product innovation, to deliver the right creativity at every point in their sales funnel.”

In other words, agencies are trying desperately to mine other sources of income as advertising, to a degree, withers on the vine. Let’s hope the newly-desirable Octopus negotiated a good price.

And is Magnus’ creative practice a British version of Publicis’ Truc in New York, creatives from all the agencies grouped together? That much-trumpeted ‘Power of One’ is gradually creeping across the ad holding group’s global empire.

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About Stephen Foster

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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.