Bottom Line: Ad giants at watchdogs’ mercy

Marc Sidwell
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>RIVAL boss of ad firm Havas David Jones took to Twitter when he heard rumours of the Omnicom-Publicis deal, scoffing “oh wow just saw a flying pig”. It turns out it was no pig, it was a well-camouflaged POG: Publicis Omnicom Group, six months in the planning yet still a bolt from the blue.
The $35bn (£23bn) group hopes to bestride the advertising landscape like a colossus, and it certainly dwarfs rivals. Martin Sorrell’s WPP has held the top spot in the sector for several years with a £15bn market cap. Does this mean even more consolidation to follow? More than likely.
For now, the challenge will be getting this deal done first. Such a dominant player, with 40 per cent of the US advertising market alone, will inevitably attract regulatory attention. While the firms are putting a brave face on this, they will be hoping that the watchdogs will share their vision for the industry.
The troubles won’t stop if would-be co-CEOs Maurice Levy and John Wren get the green light. Sharing the top role for two-and-a-half years will be a challenge itself. And their twin client lists mean conflicts, as big name clients like Pepsi (Omnicom) and Coca-Cola (Publicis) show. Working out the Chinese walls that will make it all practical won’t be easy. But you can’t fault the ambition.