How Omnicom keeps business in the family

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Even when Omnicom Group loses these days, it wins.

Visa USA, Dell Computer Corp., and any number of Frito-Lay and Pepsi brands kept their business at the No. 1 holding company over the past year rather than go out to pitch. Credit a combination of strong resources, a culture that encourages collaboration and integration and a surefooted CEO in John Wren.

Last week, news broke of Dell's intention to shift a significant part of its consumer account from DDB, Chicago, to BBDO, Atlanta, after a review involving only Omnicom agencies. It was followed by a shift of Frito-Lay's estimated $25 million Doritos business from BBDO to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. Both came just months after Visa USA opted to move from BBDO to TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles.

Omnicom, of course, prides itself on leaving client issues to the agencies. And not all of these involved efforts from Omnicom corporate to keep the business. PepsiCo, parent of Frito-Lay, has consolidated its business at Omnicom and routinely shuffles accounts around.

But Visa and Dell-with combined billings of about $600 million-both involved high-level agency executives as well as Mr. Wren. He persuaded Visa USA Exec VP-Chief Marketing Officer Susanne Lyons, who had already contacted a search consultant, to refrain from an open pitch for the business and go with a review ultimately limited to Goodby and TBWA.

Mr. Wren has also been involved with Dell. There is, however, confusion around how much of the business will ultimately shift to BBDO. The marketer would only say that DDB remains its agency of record.

An Omnicom spokeswoman said the holding company's "strategy has long been to have the most creative advertising and marketing-services companies. We're proud of those companies and the talent that resides there."

An Omnicom insider chalked up its success in keeping business to Omnicom's integrated philosophy that often has clients working with several shops in any number of disciplines. Those deep and complex relationships make it more difficult to pull all the business out.

"There are a lot of training programs, a lot of intermingling and collaborating, and if a business goes into a hard time, it's easier to get people to work together," this executive said.

But that culture also contains a competitive edge. The executive added, "I'm as competitive with [Omnicom agencies] as I am with anyone else, sometimes more. If I lose the business, I still have to fire people and they're not necessarily going to stay at Omnicom. It's not that fluid."

Musical chairs

* Dell (U.S. consumer business): DDB to BBDO

* Visa: BBDO to TBWA/Chiat/Day

* Doritos: BBDO to Goodby

* Diet Pepsi: BBDO to DDB

* Aquafina: Element 79 to BBDO

Source: Advertising Age

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