by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) NEW YORK CITY: Day 5 was quite spectacular as our first meeting was a surprise — John Wren, CEO of Omnicom. The AdForum Worldwide Summit Forum has not seen him for a few years but he accepted the invitation to join and give us an update on the Publicis Omnicom merger.

adforumMany reasons

He confirmed that the many reasons for the merger include finding efficiencies in financial and technological areas, and that the focus is on the corporate side of the transaction, not on the individual agency brands. None of the agency brands in both groups will be merged.

The newly merged group (and it will still take about 8-12 months to finalise in all areas) will continue to do acquisitions in order to ensure that it has every discipline in place.

The group will continue to provide clarity to employees and clients regarding Newco, the new company that will ultimately be formed once Publicis and Omnicom finally merge. It will have to yield good results for shareholders.

And, in the interim, the Omnicom group still has its fiduciary duties to its current shareholders, as does Publicis.


Andrew Robertson, worldwide CEO of BBDO, then spent time with us and explained that the world does not need more content as there are already six billion hours of content on YouTube, and it will take us 1700 years to watch it all. He showed us some wonderful case studies from all around the BBDO network including the following brands:

  • La
  • Doritos – Mexican (mariachi) band
  • Smart Fortwo – car
  • Snickers
  • Guinness – ad for the disabled

All of these have already achieved major successes in their respective countries.

Publicis Omnicom merger

We then moved on to the final discussion regarding the Publicis Omnicom merger. This time we heard from Miles Nadal of MDC (Crispin Porter, 72andSunny etc) and Maurice Levy, CEO of the Publicis Groupe.

MDC commented that it will continue with its own acquisition trail and does not see any real impact on its group from the POG merger — although there might be opportunities.

Levy provided a very interesting new viewpoint on the merger and, as always, talked about the future and big data, rather than dwelling on the past. Levy proved to us that this merger is very much about being ahead of the curve and being able to meet the needs of a changing world. And the impact of external consulting companies, other than agencies.

Vertic and LinkedIn

Our final stops of the day were at the LinkedIn offices in the Empire State Building and with a digital agency called Vertic.

Vertic showed us two case studies around renewable energy and Office 365. In both cases, groups of LinkedIn members were targeted according to demographics, profiles etc, with astonishing results. It showed us how it can calculate a business case on a global scale through leveraging LinkedIn data; this is the future world. It would love to be paid on ROI but procurement is not ready for this concept just yet.

Regarding LinkedIn itself, it acknowledged that most marketers have not embraced what LinkedIn can do but that awareness campaigns are in play to change this.

Saying goodbye

And so after a final discussion and lunch, another AdForum Summit was over.  Saying goodbye to real friends is not easy as we share many experiences over a short space of time. We all felt that this was probably our best AdForum Summit yet, with lots of content(!) and outputs to think about.

Thank you for reading my posts for the last week; I am looking forward to being back in South Africa and to catching up with our agencies and clients over the next few weeks. Lots of food for thought.


Johanna McDowellCurrently MD of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), Johanna McDowell has been in marketing and advertising since 1974, with experience both on the agency and client side of the fence. She held directorships in South African and British ad agencies until being appointed MD of Grey Phillips Advertising in 1988; and built Integrated Communications, a PR-driven marketing communications company that went from zero base in 1991 to an R8-million-fee turnover by December 2004.

After graduating in marketing and business studies, Johanna’s experience spanned large corporates, including UK and SA banking, manufacturing and retail, along with a 15-year stint in two of the largest ad agencies in SA and in a medium-sized agency in the UK. As such, she is well-placed to offer commentary on marketing and advertising from a local and international perspective. Follow her on Twitter at @jomcdowell.

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