Marketers Didn't See Benefit of Mega-merger

Publicis, Omnicom Did Little to Convince Clients Consolidation Was Good for Them

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For clients, the mega-merger ended much like it began -- with very little communication.

Even the most senior marketers at the holding companies' biggest clients learned the news in a haphazard fashion -- via social media, colleagues or reporters looking for comment. Both Omnicom's John Wren and Publicis' Maurice Levy sent out brief, generic emails to key clients in the hours following the official announcement that the deal was off.

Last summer both Publicis and Omnicom executives sold the deal to clients as a way to better wrap their arms around data; increase leverage with media companies like Facebook and Google; and create a one-stop shop for everything from content marketing to app development.

But more specific advantages or capabilities never materialized.

"The deal seemed to be well past the point where scale would benefit clients. In fact, it made things like conflicts more murky," Pete Marino, VP-communications for MillerCoors, said in an email. Mr. Marino, a former PR agency executive, made it clear he was expressing his own views and not the views of MillerCoors. "Both companies were already global and deep, and I never heard anyone clearly articulate exactly how and why the deal would benefit anyone but a very small handful of equity holders."

Andy England
Andy England Credit: Andreas Larsson

Andy England, CMO of MillerCoors, said in a statement that "it's not clear that there was benefit to us as a client in the merger of Publicis and Omnicom, and we're therefore happy that our agency partners can continue their great work without distraction."

The brewer works with agencies at both holding companies, including Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett and Omnicom Group's Integer Group. It also has a significant workload at WPP.

Also damning for a deal portrayed as so important -- many clients were simply indifferent, reporting that it's been business as usual.

"I honestly haven't heard it come up once since the media flurry last summer, whether from top agency leadership or those folks who work on Allstate's business every day," said Lisa Cochrane, senior VP-marketing for Allstate, which also works with Leo Burnett.

Perhaps, in the end, the biggest issue was that few expected the mega-merger would have any impact at all.

"The ecosystem is so complex and intertwined that we were not expecting a significant marketplace change," said Bob Liodice, president-CEO of the Association of National Advertisers. "As such, we don't think this is a positive or a negative development. … The industry in total will continue to motor along just fine."

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