N. Shatrujeet

Publicis picks up D'Arcy stake in Ambience; agency to be re-christened Publicis Ambience

Publicis Worldwide has clarified that the change in nomenclature will not alter the shareholding pattern at the Indian agency

Paris-headquartered Publicis Worldwide has formally announced that Indian agency Ambience D'Arcy will be rebranded as Publicis Ambience, effective January 1, 2003. The global network has further clarified that Ambience will not be merged with existing entity Publicis India, and that both agencies will exist in this country simultaneously. This, in effect, means that Ambience becomes Publicis Worldwide's second agency in India.

The development puts to rest intense industry and media speculation over the fate of Ambience, following Publicis' decision to pull the shutters down on D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (D'Arcy, for short), internationally. It may be recalled that in mid-October this year, Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe SA, had announced the closure of the D'Arcy network, with D'Arcy clients and staff being merged with the group's existing agency networks - namely Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis Worldwide.

Considering D'Arcy held a 53-per cent stake in Ambience (the balance 47 per cent is held by CMD Ashok Kurien and Vice-chairman and Chief Creative Officer Elsie Nanji), the announcement sparked a debate locally. Theories were proffered a dime a dozen, ranging from an Ambience merger with Leo Burnett India to a full buyout by Publicis Worldwide. Publicis has taken pains to clarify that the change in nomenclature to Publicis Ambience will not alter the shareholding pattern, adding that Kurien and Nanji "will continue to be substantial shareholders in accordance with their contracts with D'Arcy which will be honoured fully by Publicis". Which means Publicis is simply picking up D'Arcy's equity in Ambience.

"I was always confident that we won't be toppled by something that happened in New York or Paris," Nanji told agencyfaqs!. "We are a strong agency, and Publicis has acknowledged that we are a strong partner in India. We feel totally vindicated."

One of the most immediate implications - as far as the business angle is concerned - for Ambience is that it will retain Procter & Gamble's (P&G) Vicks business in India. To jog the memory cells, internationally, P&G had announced that it was shifting D'Arcy-aligned accounts to one or the other of Publicis' agency networks. As per that decision, in India, Ambience stood the risk of losing sanitary napkin brand Whisper to Burnett, and Vicks to Publicis India. While Whisper's move looks imminent, Ambience can draw solace that it gets to keep Vicks. "Vicks is anyway the bigger brand… after all, Ambience is the lead agency for Vicks in the entire Asia-Pacific region," points out Nanji, who, for that matter, is the regional creative director at D'Arcy/Publicis on Vicks.

While it is good news for Ambience that it didn't have to cede Vicks to Publicis India, the new equation raises a poser on how accounts globally aligned to Publicis Worldwide would be distributed in India, hereafter. Would Ambience automatically get the first… "Publicis will decide where to move the business, as and when such a thing happens," Nanji doesn't allow one to complete the thought. "And I am confident Publicis will make the right choice keeping the brand's requirements in mind." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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