The merger between Omnicom and Publicis has been declared stillborn. Maurice Levy and John Wren will go back to their corner offices, lick their wounds and pay their teams of attorneys.
Apparently, the two holding companies could not agree on personnel decisions. Omnicom's insistence that certain of their people take certain roles left Publicis feeling that the merger was more like a takeover.
Both parties agreed to kill the fix. If one alone backed out, they would have been subject to a $500 million kill fee.
Yes. You read that right.
The shocking thing about all this of course is how little has to do with making or distributing ads. The supposed "work" of our business is a mere sideshow.
The money that can be wrung from it (hence battles like the Omnicom Publicis one) comes from a simple equation. There's a lot of cash. And low overhead.
There are those who mark the decline of the modern advertising industry to about 1987 when Bob Jacoby, then CEO of Ted Bates, pocketed $175 million when he sold his agency to the Saatchis. When clients saw that amount of money floating about they rebelled.
I know what function holding companies fulfill for shareholders. And maybe that's their sole purpose. To wring every thin dime from every corner.
But to my mind, a company or a holding company should deliver, also, a good product.
Gap should be great at jeans. Chevy should be great at cars. We should be great at ads.
But in the process of wringing those dimes, we have lost our greatness.
We're only really good at making a few rarefied rich people richer.