Publicis and BBH: Stronger together

By Biprorshee Das and Anushree Bhattacharyya , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | July 06, 2012
As the Publicis Groupe gains complete control of BBH, industry experts look at the development as interesting and offer opinions on what they think of the acquisition.

Yesterday, Maurice Levy's Publicis Groupe owned 49 per cent stake in the Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) network. Today, Publicis Groupe picks up the remaining 51 per cent as well to own 100 per cent in BBH. What happens tomorrow is for everyone to wait and watch.

BBH has enjoyed the repute of being an independent creative hotshop. Now, being another agency under the Publicis umbrella, will BBH stand to lose that individuality? afaqs! quizzed a few senior stalwarts in the Indian ad industry on how they look at the development. It is agreed that it is a winner of a move; Publicis now has an agency of much creative repute in its network. They also are of the opinion that it will be in the best interest of both Publicis and BBH to allow the agency to function like the way it always has. How things unfold going forward remains to be seen.

Prasoon Joshi

Madhukar Kamath

Rohit Ohri

Suman Srivastava

Santhosh Padhi

Prasoon Joshi, chairman and chief creative officer, McCann Worldgroup India and president, South Asia

Many other agencies have been successful in maintaining their own identity. For example, R/GA - the digital agency, which was co-founded and owned by Bob Greenberg and his brother Richard, was later acquired by The Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG). It has been able to maintain its identity because the vision of the founder was very clear and the agency followed and still follows his philosophy when it comes to work. The agency started as a digital one but now follows the model of an advertising agency with focus on digital.

This is a win-win situation for both BBH and Publicis. BBH has a very clear approach to advertising and Sir John Hegarty has always had a clear vision for the agency. While the acquisition will provide financial support to BBH, Publicis Groupe will get a great brand under its umbrella.

At the end of the day, everything depends on the kind of work an agency does. How I perceive this is that acquisitions and tie ups do not change anything. It is only the work that defines or redefines an agency.

Madhukar Kamath, group chief executive officer and managing director, DDB Mudra Group

This is an interesting development. I would love to see how BBH continues to function as an independent entity within the Publicis group. For Publicis, this is like a jewel in the crown. I presume that if Sir John Hegarty continues to play an active role, even as a mentor, the chances are better for BBH to remain independent.

Rohit Ohri, executive chairman, Dentsu India Group

This is not a new relationship as Publicis Groupe earlier owned 49 per cent stake in the agency. So, both of them have been partners for a long time now. This deal means BBH will now have financial support from the group.

BBH is an asset for the group with independent value, therefore the agency has been given great autonomy when it comes to work. Maurice Levy, CEO, Publicis Groupe has allowed the agency to function in the same manner it used to when it comes to delivering creative work.

While BBH gains financial support from the deal, Publicis Groupe gets to add a well-respected brand under its banner, which will further help to strengthen the image of the mother brand.

Definitely, in India, BBH will not be merged in the same manner as Mudra was after it was acquired by the Omnicom Group. In case of Omnicom and Mudra, the merger only happened as the deal was between a small agency and a large group. Here, BBH is a fairly strong brand of almost same strength. A good strategy here will be to follow the model of the WPP Group, which allows its agencies like JWT, Ogilvy, Grey and Rediffusion-Y&R to function as standalone companies. Also, this deal will help to broaden the scope of business as it will allow the group to handle competition brands.

Suman Srivastava, founder and innovation artist, Marketing Unplugged

I was very surprised with the development, really. I had almost forgotten that Publicis Groupe held 49 per cent in BBH. Having said that, BBH never behaved like a 'Publicis group agency'. Leo Burnett, for example, functions as an independent agency and one would not be able to tell unless mentioned that it belongs to the Publicis group. It remains to be seen now how BBH continues to exist as a separate entity. The local management, of course will have their roles to play.

The story is out there in London and Paris, not in India. Publicis stands to gain a lot. The BBH owners, while getting a lot of cash, will now come under the Publicis umbrella and will have to fight to be seen as an independent organisation going forward. Hot creative guys could think twice before deciding to join BBH now as they might not perceive BBH to be a 'creative hotshop'.

Publicis is one of the better run groups. It has a strong backend staff and is profitable, hence BBH will get a large financial dose from this. Typically creative hotshops are not really known to be very strong financially. The development will definitely help BBH when it comes to profitability. But will it really lose out on its independence? Time will tell.

Santhosh Padhi, co-founder and chief creative officer, Taproot India

This is just the coming together of strengths. Publicis has so far allowed BBH to function in a particular way. Common sense says things will not change now. So it was 49 per cent before and now it is 100 per cent but you cannot ask Sachin to bowl and not bat. Knowing Sir John Hegarty and the gang, this is probably just a formal change of ownership and things will only be a lot better for BBH ahead. When developments such as these happen, people generally tend to perform and achieve more. Knowing the mature group that Publicis is, it will only allow BBH to continue the way it has all along.

Both Publicis and BBH are in a win-win situation. Publicis, on its part, has got on board a fantastic agency that is known to produce cutting edge work. BBH, on the other hand, now gets more access to Publicis' list of clients globally.

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