The news that IPG is following the WPP strategy of merging its
marketing services arms into two clear advertising and PR brands should
give M&A advisers reasons to be cheerful. Shortly after finishing the
merger of Lowe and Lintas to add to its McCann-Erickson ad agency, WPP
began its acquisition of Young and Rubicam/Burson-Marsteller.
The process of clearing the decks at IPG has been more convoluted, in
part because of the mish-mash of agencies in place when IPG bought the
Shandwick network in 1998.
If that process is nearing completion - and the formation of two clearly
defined agencies in Weber Shandwick and Golin/Harris suggests it is -
this may be a precursor to yet another Interpublic shopping spree
Finding suitable targets is increasingly difficult in a market of few
desirable independents, but difficult does not mean impossible.
The principle of rationalising PR brands into two is a sound one, and
the management in place are doubtless able to push through the necessary
cultural changes during the details phase of the merger process.
It is scarcely coincidental that almost all these managers are based in
the US. Since the resignations of deputy Shandwick CEO Michael Murphy
and Chairman Lord Chadlington, the only top-level figure in Europe is
the regional CEO Lutz Meyer. It is a symbol of US dominance that the
UK's most distinguished PR agency is now run largely from Manhattan.