Stuck in the middle

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Last week's Publicis Groupe deal leaves fewer than ten global advertising and marketing communications networks with gross income in the single-billion dollar range. The difference in gross income of the next-largest group of challengers, smaller networks like Panoramic Communications or such independent agencies as Doner, is vast-about $500 million, according to Advertising Age's 57th annual agency report based on 2000 figures, the latest available. In fact, if Havas Advertising, Cordiant Communications Group and Grey Global Group were combined, only then would they approach the size of the Bcom3-Publicis entity (see chart, top left).

"Certainly those companies that are left standing and not part of a holding company have to look at what their options are," said Abe Jones, managing director, AdMedia Partners, New York.

Some analysts believe joining the consolidation trend is not a necessity for survival. "There's been a gathering of giants," said analyst Alan Gottesman of West End Consulting. "But not everyone will be a giant." Agencies in the medium-size area include Havas, Grey, Cordiant, and Japan's Hakuhodo.

Ed Meyer, CEO, Grey Global Group, New York, with 2001 revenues of $1.2 billion, argues that not being as large as the top-tier networks can be a positive differentiation. "We are not a mega-agency," he said, but "we are an agency with all of the disciplines necessary and we're in all the major markets in the world."

Sixth-ranked Havas, which announced a post-restructuring cost $50.6 million net loss last week, is focused on making its numbers for 2002, not on acquisitions, said a company spokesman. In an earlier interview, Havas Chairman-CEO Alain de Pouzilhac said the company's priorities include building its media unit, Media Planning Group, into one of the top five such groups by the end of 2003. That undoubtedly will be harder.

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