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Claire Beale: Perils of placing corporate greed over creative deed

Now, where was I? Ah... creativity. I really wanted my first column back in this slot to be a thoroughly indulgent wallow in creativity, face buried sniff/taste deep into brilliant work. But then the Publicis-Omnicom merger collapsed, and creativity took a back seat. Which, come to think of it, is one of the reasons Publicis Omnicom Group looked like a failure from the off.

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I never found anyone who could explain why a mash-up of Publicis and Omnicom would mean better, more engaging and effective work for clients. Bigger big data, more muscly media muscle, higher high-tech, perhaps. But every client I’ve ever met is drowning in all that stuff already. And no decent client chases a cheap deal at the expense of advertising that actually works.

So I never met a client who was the slightest bit interested in this deal – even the ones who knew anything about it. And I never found a Publicis or Omnicom agency chief who had any interest in the mega-merger either, beyond worrying about whether there would be a job for them at the end of it.

It was a deal that all the important people – the clients and the people creating work to help those clients sell stuff – could see absolutely no point in. Somewhere over $100 million was spunked on trying to make it work  – "It’s not a very large number," John Wren said of Omnicom’s share of that pot. Perhaps not, in terms of big corporate plays (even those that don’t happen), but just think how much great talent that could have bought, particularly in light of all the job losses and cost-cutting that have compromised the business over the past few years. So what was it all for, then? A few big shareholders and a few big egos, one influential city analyst says. Which is a pretty damming reflection on our industry.

I never found anyone who could explain why a mash-up of Publicis and Omnicom would mean better, more effective work

Anyway, you know all of this (in as much as you care… "Most of my staff barely know which holding company they work for and they care even less," one CEO told me recently. "All they really care about is the work that comes out of our building. The work, the work, the work." Thank God.).

So what now?

Sir Martin Sorrell has played a blinder through the whole mess, turning every positive WPP story – most of which had absolutely nothing to do with the spectre of POG – into anti-POG news. Expect more joyful
nose-rubbing now. Respect.

And there will, of course, continue to be holding company deals. It’s almost the only avenue for growth now. There may even be a big one.

But, for goodness sake, let’s try to believe we’re all here to make brilliant work that sells stuff, not to make some rich shareholders richer.

claire.beale@haymarket.com
@campaignmag

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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