Q&A with Simon Sproule, CVP of global marketing communications at Nissan Motor Company; director of marketing communications for the Renault-Nissan Alliance
PRWeek: When were you informed about the proposed merger of Publicis Groupe and Omnicom Group?
Simon Sproule: We were told very late in the day, 24 to 48 hours beforehand. I don't think any clients were briefed far beforehand, and I don't blame them for that. That's one of the reasons why details of the deal didn't leak out. Since they made the announcement, they have been very communicative with us.
PRW: What is your current relationship with the constituent parts of the proposed Publicis Omnicom Group?
SS: I believe Renault-Nissan is the largest client of the newly combined group. Renault was using [Aegis-owned] Carat for media back in the day, but that was consolidated within OMD in 2007-08.
Nissan uses Omnicom for most of its advertising [TBWA], media [OMD], PR [Stratacomm], and branded content and sponsorship [Fuse] agency requirements, but we do work with Publicis' Digitas, so we already have some knowledge of both companies.
PRW: How will the merger affect these relationships?
SS: We will have to see how they'll structure the new group and the various industry verticals. It's safe to say that John [Wren] and Maurice [Levy] would have thought about this ahead of time and will structure the new business accordingly. It's up to them to then communicate that to clients.
We're waiting to see how the structure will work, but for the moment, it is business as usual – there's going to be at least six months of regulatory activity to go through first. It is early days, and we will wait for direction from each individual company, but I don't anticipate anything major changing.
PRW: Are you worried about potential conflicts with other clients serviced by the merged group?
SS: I know that Toyota uses [Publicis ad agency] Saatchi & Saatchi, but you can't avoid having more than one brand from the same industry vertical in the same holding company these days. There is no agency out there of any decent size that doesn't have a relationship with one or more brands from the same industry vertical, whether it's tech, pharma, automotive, or whatever.
As long as they are putting the best people on our account, doing great work, and are laser-focused on great service, we will trust their confidentiality and firewalls between agencies. I'm not overly concerned.
PRW: What will the increased scale of Publicis Omnicom Group mean for Renault Nissan?
SS: Of course, I hope the greater scale of the merged agencies will bring better services for lower costs. But the game isn't just about scale anymore. Media is fragmenting, and there has been massive consolidation. You need people on your account team that understand it's not just about buying gross media points at the best price – it's more about partnership deals.
PRW: Are there any similarities with the OmniPub merger and your business?
SS: We have experience with such large mergers through the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which was established 14 years ago. We also have our HQ in Amsterdam. We're French and Japanese; they're French and American.
PRW: How do you deal with the digital mega-brands cited as one of the drivers behind the merger?
SS: We deal with the likes of Google and Microsoft through a combination of direct contact as well as via our agencies.
PRW: Are you expecting a call from Martin Sorrell any time soon?
SS: I see Sir Martin regularly on the Formula 1 racing circuit, where Nissan is the largest sponsor and Sorrell is a board member of CVC, the controlling shareholder of Formula 1. We already work with a number of smaller WPP agencies, such as Prism. And I know Martin from my days at Ford Motor Company.