I wrote last July, when this merger was announced that I thought it was a bad idea. I am writing now to say that I am happy that it fell apart. Months ago, I told a friend that I couldn’t believe that this awful merger would come to pass. I don’t know a lot about the French side of Publicis, but I couldn’t believe that Omnicom would give up financial control. In my opinion Omnicom is the best run of the major holding companies, partially due to their financial controls and policies.
Be that as it may, good riddance.
Here are five reasons why:
1 1) Creativity would suffer.
During the heyday of creativity, in the sixties, the really good creative agencies figured out how to limit their own bureaucracy. The star system was born. Since the advent of the holding companies, there are no stars. Adding a humongous bureaucracy on top of the one that already exists, could not have been good for the business.
2 2) This merger may have been in restraint of trade
Anything which limits competition is, in my opinion, restraint of trade. The P/O merger surely would have limited competition. The holding companies have too much power.
3 3) This monumental merger would have hurt career advancement.
As a recruiter, we are often given assignments which agencies are unable to fill themselves – even with their minions of in-house contract recruiters. The problem is that we and they are precluded from introducing a person who works at any one of the holding company’s agencies to another within the network. I wrote about this some time ago. And even though, for instance, Publicis, has a procedure with which its people can apply on line to move from, say, Saatchi & Saatchi to Digitas, it is an underutilized mechanism. The reason for this is fear of being found out and being fired by an angry company or boss.
Add to this that recruiters are precluded from sending someone who is working on an account to any other agency which handles some part of that account. A person working on P&G at Saatchi cannot move to the Citibank account at Publicis because Publicis is a Procter agency. (People can move if they get specific permission from their boss and from Human Resources, but that rarely happens. And recruiters cannot do it at all, with or without permission.)
4) Publicis and Omnicom are run quite differently
Each of these networks is well run. Their methods and systems are right for their own cultures and have evolved over many years. One of the reasons the merger fell apart is because they couldn’t agree on who would be running the combined entity. Neither system would have been right for the other. The French conduct business very differently than we do – that is not a put-down; it is just a fact.
5 5) Ultimately the merger would have caused more consolidation
Inevitably, just as the corporate back offices would be scaled back, there would be consolidation among their agencies and companies. Each network already has too many redundant companies.
Too many of their companies have the same offerings, the same tools and the same process (called by different names, but to the same end); this is especially true in media. But consolidation would not be limited to just media agencies. Publicis rolled Kaplan Thaler into Publics and LBi into Mr.Youth (now MRY). There would have been more of this. And to what purpose? Efficiencies don’t justify the limiting of creativity.
In my opinion, this was merely a merger of egos. Every one of the senior executives involved loved the idea of becoming the number one holding company. It may have mattered to the principals involved, but the rest of the business could care less.