[paris] Reacting to talk that Euro RSCG is seeking a U.S. link-up with Leo Burnett Co. or Grey Advertising, agency officials here termed the idea of such a limited agreement "a fantasy."
Still, the Euro RSCG executives did acknowledge that efforts to forge a global strategic partnership with another ad agency continue.
Burnett and Grey have been speculated upon because all three share Procter & Gamble Co. as a client, making added business from the giant package-goods company an attractive target.
According to Alain de Pouzilhac, president of Havas Advertising-the Havas affiliate whose primary unit is Euro RSCG-
negotiations toward striking a worldwide strategic alliance are progressing, adding that "negotiations with Grey and Burnett in the U.S. are pure invention."
Mr. de Pouzilhac said he had not spoken with officials at either agency in a long time.
Asked whether either agency was a potential partner for the worldwide alliance Havas officials have encouraged as a means of attaining faster international expansion, Mr. de Pouzilhac declined to answer, but did say the field of possible suitors remained wide open.
Separately, Grey officials declined comment. Burnett officials denied any talks were ongoing.
Mr. de Pouzilhac's search for partners began in February when the diversified Havas holding company denied rumors it wanted to sell its ad businesses to focus on electronic media. Mr. de Pouzilhac stated then that while the holding company was willing to allow its current 40% stake in the agency to decline through forging new partnerships, Havas would not allow its share to drop below 20%.
At the time, Havas officials said Euro RSCG debt made growth via acquisition of another agency difficult to imagine.
PLANS TO SLASH DEBT
Last week, Mr. de Pouzilhac told Advertising Age that debt is set to be cut dramatically enough over the next 12 months and "a non-capital partnership, exchanges of capital or acquisition are all equally feasible."
Analysts maintain that while the arrival earlier this year of water services group Generale des Eaux as Havas' biggest investor bodes well for the holding company, GdE does not view advertising within its strategic design and will force an eventual sale of Havas Advertising.
Both Havas and Euro RSCG insist to the contrary, and said they'll pursue partnerships such as the recent agreement with Andersen Consulting Co., which seeks to offer information management as well as marketing and communications, and the Mediapolis media buying venture with Young & Rubicam.