Conflicted over Tempus

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In the battle for Tempus Group, rival suitors WPP Group and Havas each claims the other has clients that would pose intractable conflicts. But the suitors' claims could be a Tempus in a teapot: It's not clear any of the purported conflicts is a deal breaker.

A key question raised by the rival suitors is whether Tempus' DaimlerChrysler work could coexist with other car accounts: U.K.-based WPP handles Ford Motor Co., while French holding company Havas works on PSA Peugeot Citroen and Volkswagen.

"As far as [WPP] clients are concerned, there is little conflict," said Martin Sorrell, WPP's group chief executive, in a conference call last week with analysts. He said no conflicts stood in the way of his closing a deal, but he admitted WPP might have to solve some Tempus-related conflicts in the long term. He added: "There are some undisclosed conflicts in the context of the Havas and [Tempus] offer which have not been revealed yet."

Havas July 19 offered $598 million for Tempus, the U.K. parent of international media specialist CIA Medianetwork. WPP, which owns 22% of Tempus, launched a $629 million counteroffer Aug. 20.

In a Havas conference call with analysts, Havas Chairman Alain de Pouzilhac said he had personally met with Peugeot and Citroen executives and got their blessing for the Tempus bid. "They were very enthusiastic about it. ... They didn't see any problems," he said. Peugeot and Citroen executives were not available at deadline.

A pivotal moment in last year's battle between WPP and France's Publicis Groupe for Young & Rubicam occurred when Y&R client Ford said it would not accept a relationship with Publicis because of its work on Renault and General Motors Corp.'s Saturn. WPP, a key Ford ad supplier, won Y&R.

Tempus car work, in theory at least, could be a serious conflict for WPP and Havas.

Tempus' newly formed Tempus Fusion, Westport, Conn., was hired as a consultant by DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group in late spring (AA, July 23).

WPP, meanwhile, is tied closely to Chrysler rival Ford. WPP's J. Walter Thompson, Y&R Advertising and Ogilvy & Mather handle the bulk of Ford creative globally. JWT's Ford Motor Media handles worldwide media buying and planning.

"I'm sure WPP management is sensitive to potential conflicts," said Jan Klug. VP-global marketing at Ford. "As their negotiations progress those issues will no doubt be addressed."

Another possible WPP-Tempus conflict appears to be vanishing: Tempus' CIA had a joint venture with FCB Worldwide to handle DaimlerChrysler media buying and planning in 60 global markets, excluding the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The venture also did media planning in Germany. But FCB lost DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group late last year to Omnicom Group's PentaMark Worldwide. PentaMark told Advertising Age in July that although it's now working with CIA outside North America and Germany, it will eventually take over the entire account.

Havas' Peugeot and Citroen work might not be a significant conflict with DaimlerChrysler. Although Peugeot is expected to re-enter the U.S., perhaps as early as 2002, the Peugeot and Citroen brands aren't now sold in the U.S., a key DaimlerChrysler territory. Nor does Havas' Media Planning Group handle Peugeot or Citroen in Germany, DaimlerChrysler's home market.

Havas' stealth conflict, alluded to by Mr. Sorrell, is most likely Volkswagen. Media Planning is expected to eventually absorb media buying and planning services of sibling Arnold Worldwide Partners, which does media for Volkswagen in the U.S. and Canada.

"Given what he know at this early juncture," said a Volkswagen spokesman, "Tempus does media business for DaimlerChrysler in Europe, which doesn't seem to be a conflict with us in the U.S."

"Tempus has some auto brands in Europe as does MPG. Given the fact that they are outside the states, and that our media for VW is strictly North America, it is not an issue," said John Gaffney, Arnold's exec VP-media director. "We're hopeful [a merger with Tempus] will all come together. It would be very good for the company."

Contributing: Mercedes M. Cardona and Jean Halliday

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