At the Paris press conference yesterday announcing the proposed $23 billion advertising goliath Publicis Omnicom Group, John Wren said the potential for client conflicts "is not overwhelming given size of transaction," but he added that he does expect "difficulties."
While clients have generally become more flexible in devising structures to help them maintain a competitive advantage, there are wrinkles. Industry execs say some may have to re-examine agency relationships, per company requirements. And they expect a bit of sabre-rattling by clients who weren't consulted on the deal (such as when Volvo threatened to move its business after Publicis merged Digitas and LBi without giving the car maker a head's up).
Industry execs say the biggest conflict to watch is the beverage giants'. WPP and Interpublic, which both work with Coke, could have an advantage here; it's hard to imagine that WPP wouldn't court Coke. The now-No. 2 holding company has has made inroads with Coke on the media side (it just moved some duties there in Vietnam). And WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell also sat alongside Coke Chairman-CEO Muhtar Kent and Chief Marketing Officer Joe Tripodi on a panel in Cannes.
Some companies that Advertising Age was able to reach seemed unconcerned, citing the structure of holding companies and firewalls. Among them were L'Oreal, which is on the roster of both holding companies, and Anheuser-Busch InBev.