Interpublic Media Shops Look to Combine Functions

Universal McCann CEO Nick Brien to Head Task Force

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Interpublic Group has created a task force to streamline operations of global media networks Universal McCann and Initiative, stoking rumors that the two units may be merged under Universal McCann CEO Nick Brien, who was tapped to lead the task force.
Nick Brien
Nick Brien

Interpublic CEO Michael Roth was adamant in an internal memo sent to senior management at both agencies that the task force is not a predecessor to the merger of Interpublic media networks.

Staying with two brands
"This increased emphasis on optimizing the existing media business will not compromise our commitment to the independence of the brands and the need for a two-brand strategy," he wrote.

"We have ... seen significant improvement in the final performance of both companies in 2007. We therefore remain committed to the interdependence model and the need to have two core media brands."

Interpublic previously organized its media agencies under a central unit, IPG Media, only to quickly separate them in 2006. Under the new initiative, the networks are aligned with sister agencies: Universal McCann with McCann Worldgroup and Initiative with DraftFCB.

The media task force, which held its first meeting this morning, will be charged with cutting costs and improving collaboration between the two agencies. In some cases, management consolidation will be considered.

No holding-company merger
Interpublic media companies will not be the only networks asked to improve efficiencies, Mr. Roth said. "As we look to 2008, we are asking companies across Interpublic with analogous business models to come up with ways to increase efficiencies," he said in the memo.

Mr. Roth's comments are not an indicator the holding company is looking at a merger, said executives familiar with the matter. (It has been rumored Deutsch and Lowe Worldwide are candidates).

Asked about which specific shops will be asked to look at efficiencies next, IPG spokesman Philippe Krakowsky would only say "it will be very targeted and limited to operational opportunities."

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Contributing: Rupal Parekh