Omnicom’s announcement to the Stock Exchange last week that it
plans to take control of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO has implications
beyond its directors becoming multi-millionaires. AMV is arguably the
country’s most successful advertising agency and counts the likes of BT,
Sainsbury’s and Volvo among its blue chip client list.
If the pounds 350m bid is accepted - which observers expect before
Christmas - Omnicom will control three of the UK’s top ten advertising
agencies with combined billings of pounds 781m. This means that the
group’s agencies, TBWA GGT Simons Palmer, BMP DDB, plus AMV, would
control 19% of ad campaigns produced by the top 30 agencies.
Omnicom would therefore overtake WPP, which bills pounds 507.4m through
J Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather, as the largest ad agency group in
Omnicom, the giant US communications group, has owned 27.7% of AMV via
its BBDO network since 1991. Therefore, beyond the agency changing its
name to BBDO Abbott Mead Vickers, many feel that the deal is merely
formalising the relationship.
’The companies have had years of working together, with a lot of
European BBDO work being handled by the London agency - Compaq being a
There won’t be a shift of power as a result of the deal. It just means
that after years of going to bed together, they’re now getting married,’
says industry analyst Lorna Tilbian at Panmure Gordon.
But some clients disagree. Andrew Marsden, marketing director of
Britvic, whose Pepsi brand is handled by AMV, says maintaining
creativity and the same level of service is always an issue after a
’What you’re buying from an agency is relationships and understanding
built up over time. This inevitably changes when new management comes
in. There’s nothing more frustrating for clients than receiving a letter
from an agency post-buyout, saying ’don’t worry, nothing’s going to
change,’ - that’s absolute rubbish,’ he claims.
There is also the question of corporate culture. AMV’s three founding
partners, David Abbott. Peter Mead and Adrian Vickers, have been the
defining forces on the agency’s internal culture and creative work.
Abbott has retired, and there have been suggestions that the agency is
already missing his creative lead. A sell-out to Omnicom would
inevitably fuel suggestions that the M and the V in the agency’s name
would make way for new senior management.
However, the biggest changes, if the deal goes ahead, are expected below
the line. AMV owns direct marketing agencies Craik Jones and Barraclough
Hall, while Omnicom owns several shops through its Diversified Agency
Services (DAS) division including WWAV Rapp Collins and Claydon
AMV put in an offer for Claydon Heeley earlier this year but was outbid
Sources now expect there to be further rationalisation: ’As it stands,
it would be a fractured portfolio for Omnicom with several promotions
agencies and DM agencies. Both AMV and Omnicom are extremely successful
below the line so there will be issues as to how a realignment occurs.
It may be that a new ownership structure is drawn up,’ says a
The deal also has implications for media. Omnicom currently owns BMP
Optimum, which ranks fourth in the market and Manning Gottlieb Media,
which is number 20. Through AMV it has a stake in New PHD, and would be
likely to seek consolidation of its group TV buying and negotiation
OMNICOM’S UK AGENCY INTERESTS
TBWA GGT Simons Palmer
Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO*
DIRECT MARKETING/SALES PROMOTION
WWAV Rapp Collins
Tequila Payne Stracey
Craik Jones Watson
Barraclough Hall Woolston Gray*
Clarke Hooper Consulting*
Manning Gottlieb Media
Countrywide Porter Novelli
Gavin Anderson GPC