EDITORIAL: WPP’s purchase: how will PR fair?

If, as expected, the dollars 5.7 billion sale of Young & Rubicam to WPP is approved by shareholders, it will be the largest deal in the history of communications and will give the British conglomerate a dominant position in global public relations, with over dollars 700 million in global PR income.

If, as expected, the dollars 5.7 billion sale of Young & Rubicam to WPP is approved by shareholders, it will be the largest deal in the history of communications and will give the British conglomerate a dominant position in global public relations, with over dollars 700 million in global PR income.

If, as expected, the dollars 5.7 billion sale of Young & Rubicam to

WPP is approved by shareholders, it will be the largest deal in the

history of communications and will give the British conglomerate a

dominant position in global public relations, with over dollars 700

million in global PR income.



The implications for the PR firms involved, however, are still not

clear.



To the outside observer, it is a mouth-watering prospect to imagine that

archrivals Burson-Marsteller and Hill & Knowlton - the two largest PR

agencies in the world - will be sister firms. To say nothing of Ogilvy,

Cohn & Wolfe and Robinson Lerer Montgomery.



It is doubtful that any of the PR agencies will merge. Retaining

separate PR brands is vital (there are not enough brands as it is for

all the existing business) and it allows them to work with competing

businesses. It is also unlikely that changes to the Y&R PR operations

will be high on the agenda for WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell, since it is

understood that ’bigger problems’ in the Y&R business lurk

elsewhere.



But what about non-compete deals? With such a large roster of global

brands, can WPP afford to rob Peter and Paul to foster good relations

among the firms? And will PR agencies be required to work in

collaboration on acquisitions, as the Interpublic and Omnicom agencies

must do?



And what do the PR clients think? It was reported that negotiations

between Y&R and Publicis broke down because Y&R client Ford objected to

the fact that competitors BMW and Renault are in Publicis’ stable. One

wonders whether PR clients’ opinions on potential conflicts will be

given equal weight. At a corporate level, CEOs are certainly required to

divulge much deeper secrets to their PR and IR advisors than to their

advertising agencies.



That might be a worry for some, but in this age of media mega-mergers,

it’s unlikely that such concerns will get in the way



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