In the Shadow of Publicis-Omnicom, Small Shops Form a Global Holding Company

Chi & Partners and Other Agencies Create The & Partnership

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As adland stays focused on the tie-up between Publicis Groupe and Omnicom Group, the largest agency-business merger in history, a handful of small independent marketing shops are banding together to form a holding company called The & Partnership.

Johnny Hornby and Andrew Bailey
Johnny Hornby and Andrew Bailey

The agencies include WPP-backed ad shop Chi & Partners and its media operation M Six, itself a joint venture with WPP's GroupM; digital and customer relationship management shop Rapier; PR agency Halpern; and social shop The Social Practice. The companies, mostly based in the U.K., tout a combined staff of over 1,000. Under the new holding group, they'll will work toward a single profit and loss statement. Clients include Samsung, Direct Energy, PBS and IHG.

Johnny Hornby, CEO of Chi & Partners and the guy who orchestrated the creation of the new group, will serve as global CEO. Andrew Bailey, North American chairman of BBDO's Proximity, is leaving to serve as North America CEO.

WPP bought a stake in Chi & Partners in 2007 and as a result will have a 49% stake in The & Partnership.

"As an industry, we used to do a few big simple things to drive results for clients," Mr. Bailey said in a statement. "Today's consumer expectations require that we do many things well and measure the impact of our labors for clients. Business-changing creativity has a new face today."

Today's business also requires scale, as evident in the pending merger of holding company giants Publicis and Omnicom.

But Mr. Bailey is leaving Omnicom to build his own scale essentially from scratch in North America, tasked with growing the business and expanding the regional operation out of the Soho office of Chi and M Six in New York. M Six only entered the U.S. this past August. Over the next few months, the team will "make some decisions on which agency brands to bring into the North American marketplace," Mr. Bailey told Ad Age. He said he's also looking at potential acquisitions.

While the new holding group will be based in the U.K., where Mr. Hornby runs Chi, the company will have a presence in London, New York, Singapore and Latin America through the agencies' existing offices.

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