TBWA Eyes Zimmerman

Omnicom Group and TBWA Worldwide are in negotiations to buy Zimmerman & Partners Advertising. The move is designed to stabilize TBWA’s relationship with its biggest global client, Nissan Motor, said sources.
Acquiring Zimmerman, a $150 million shop in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., specializing in car dealer ads, would fulfill TBWA/Chiat/Day’s goal of having a shop devoted to Nissan dealers. The talks between Omnicom, TBWA and Zimmerman–described as “serious”–come as French automaker Renault is trying to acquire a controlling stake in Nissan in Tokyo.
Bob Kuperman, TBWA’s president/CEO of the Americas, is leading the talks with Zimmerman president Jordan Zimmerman, said sources. Neither Kuperman nor Omnicom chief executive John Wren could be reached for comment; Zimmerman declined to comment last week.
With Renault offering about $5 billion for an estimated 35 percent share in Nissan, the stakes are high for TBWA. The agency handles all ads for Nissan North America’s Nissan and Infiniti divisions and about 1,200 dealers. The combined global account is worth more than $600 million in billings and represents roughly half of TBWA/C/D’s income.
For TBWA/C/D, a deal would allow it to consolidate work for Nissan’s often cantankerous dealers at a specialist shop while freeing up the flagship office in Playa del Rey, Calif., to focus on factory ads. The agency handles the $200 million dealer account through seven field offices and has wanted a dedicated unit for that task.
The deal could also strengthen TBWA against possible incursions by agencies such as Publicis SA, which handles Renault in Europe.
The deal would enable Zimmerman to cash out and link up with a larger player. Grey Advertising inked an agreement to buy Zimmerman in late 1997 but later backed out of the deal. Zimmerman has field offices in San Francisco, Elmwood Park, N.J., and Dallas. –with Jim Osterman