McCann Talk Hints at Bringing Media, Creative Closer

With Former Mediabrands CEO at Helm, Reintegration Chatter Heats Up

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NEW YORK ( -- In early June Brian Perkins, corporate VP at Johnson & Johnson, made a plea in the pages of this publication for the agency models of yesteryear, when media and creative were neatly bundled under one roof. In fact, he went so far as to wish Nick Brien, CEO of McCann Worldgroup, "the best" of luck getting creative and media to work "side-by-side" at the Interpublic Group of Cos.' shop. "If anyone can pull this off on a global basis, Nick just might be the person."

It hasn't fallen on deaf ears.

According to several agency executives with knowledge of it, the notion of bringing together media and creative closer together is something increasingly being discussed in the halls of the holding company and McCann lately. While the chatter is early and stops short of merging agency brands -- Interpublic isn't expected to disband its Mediabrands uber-group -- any shift would be a sea change in an ad industry whose last 20 years has been marked by the separation of media out of big creative agencies.

With Mr. Brien now running the company's largest ad network, many say it only makes sense that the conversations starts to percolate again.

Since grabbing the reins from longtime Worldgroup head John Dooner in April, Mr. Brien, formerly CEO of Interpublic's Mediabrands, launched an experiment called "UM Inside," a venture that's within the New York office of McCann -- but is led by Universal McCann -- that is trying to bring media strategy closer together with creative execution for clients. He also appointed Universal McCann's Darryl Lee, a top strategist at the media agency to serve as chief integration architect for Worldgroup -- a new position with a telling title.

While most of the holding company executives or clients that Ad Age spoke to said they have not seen or heard of any immediate formal business plans or long-term strategy mapping out the plans for a rebundling reported discussions about how Worldgroup companies can collaborate more often and more closely are taking place and that's something they would definitely welcome.

"The importance of media in integrated marketing solutions is clearly on the rise, so we'll continue to work at increasing the degree of collaboration and alignment that we deliver to clients," said an IPG spokesman. "But we do not need -- nor do we intend -- to combine our media and brand agencies in order to achieve that goal."

One executive familiar with McCann said he was privy to discussions about uniting media and creative as well as digital under the Worldgroup umbrella, but added that Interpublic won't "literally put them together. [Rather] they are taking brains from one, and making [McCann] a more media-centric offering." The executive also went on to call Mr. Lee "a key player in all of this."

Ad Age asked Mr. Brien about any plans to pull media closer to creative and he didn't comment on that but did praise the notion of increased collaboration.

"We must stop obsessing about individual companies and silo P&Ls and begin obsessing about collective genius and teamwork ingenuity," he said in an email. "No individual or specialist business has all the answers, regardless of their pitch."

Working together won't -- anytime soon, anyway -- mean erasing brands under the Worldgroup banner or destroying individual profit-and-loss statements of the agencies, insiders say. For the past two years, Interpublic has worked hard to establish and maintain Mediabrands, the umbrella group that oversees all of Interpublic's media shops, as a separate unit.

That division hasn't had a CEO since Mr. Brien's departure and is managed by Matt Seiler, CEO of Universal McCann; Richard Beaven, global CEO of Initiative; Tara Comonte, chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Mediabrands; and Matt Freeman, CEO of Mediabrands Ventures, and all indications are that Interpublic is going to take the 12 months it said it would in determining the next Mediabrands CEO.

One senior agency executive close to the McCann Group said there isn't a creative agency CEO that wouldn't want all practices under their domain, especially now as creative shops are fighting to keep and take business from media, direct and PR shops.

"At the end of the day there isn't an advertising guy in the world that doesn't want everything under his umbrella or doesn't fundamentally believe it should be part of his group," the executive said. "Advertising is trying to find its way. It's a relatively healthy business but it has long-term structural issues and is trying to figure it all out."

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Contributing: Rupal Parekh

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