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4A'S CRAWFORD SEES MORE CONSOLIDATION TALK AT ANNUAL MEETING EXPECTED TO INCLUDE FORECAST THAT CASTS PALL OVER THE FUTURE OF MIDSIZE AGENCIES

By Published on .

Omnicom Group Chairman Bruce Crawford has a message for the American Association of Advertising Agencies and its members this week that many may not want to hear.

Mr. Crawford, one of the first speakers Thursday morning at the Four A's annual meeting in Orlando, is expected to predict further consolidation in both advertising accounts and agencies for the industry. At the same time, he is expected to wager that the big winners will be multinational agencies and their holding companies.

Mr. Crawford's Omnicom is itself a publicly traded holding company for DDB Needham Worldwide, BBDO Worldwide, TBWA Worldwide, Diversified Agency Services (Omnicom's umbrella for direct marketing, sales promotion and other below the line shops), as well as several smaller agencies, including Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

Mr. Crawford wouldn't comment on his speech at press time. However, executives familiar with the text and gist of his talk said they are under the impression that it doesn't augur well for most midsize agencies.

Specifically, executives who have heard about it say that the speech forecasts a dimmer outlook for many midsize shops and the acquisition by multinational agencies and/or holding companies of those that manage to become highly successful.

He is also expected to look at how difficult it is for a small agency to become a successful midsize shop in today's business climate and to touch upon the idea that the ranks of midsize agencies are dwindling both domestically and internationally.

As a result, he also is said to believe there will be concomitant changes in the Four A's in terms of both membership and function.

While Mr. Crawford's point of view might seem expected given his role as head of a large holding company, it appears to be supported by recent and upcoming agency acquisitions. This year alone has seen the acquisition of Chiat/Day by Omnicom's TBWA, the pending sale of Ross Roy (see story below), and the investment by Interpublic Group of Cos. in Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis, among others.

The meeting will mark the end of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Worldwide Chairman-CEO Ed Wax's year as Four A's president. If tradition holds, J. Walter Thompson Co. Chairman-CEO Burt Manning will then move up to president from VP of the group.

Last year's Four A's conference was highlighted by a new-media wakeup call by Procter & Gamble Co. Chairman-CEO Edwin L. Artzt. He told attendees the future would not be driven by traditional advertising, and that agencies had better get ready.

He predicted mass marketers and their agencies will have to participate much more actively in the creation and distribution of programming used to reach mass audiences through new entertainment options.

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