IPG's Michael Roth on the Deutsch-Lowe Union


With the Lowe and Deutsch move, aren't you also being more creative by doing something within your means?

There are a few ways of expansion. You can acquire it, you can do it yourself organically or you can do what we did here in terms of the alignment. You look at what the possibilities are. Certainly this one makes sense and there's no need for us to go out and buy a U.S. agency to fit with Lowe. Nor did we have to open up offices for Deutsch to expand globally. It just makes a lot of sense.

What's ailing McCann these days?

(Laughs) Who says there's something ailing McCann?

Well, it hasn't been a glorious year for them.

Candidly, this business, I've learned now, goes in cycles. I'm very comfortable with McCann, their go-to-market strategy, their people. They were winning a lot of business at one time -- and then at another time, it slows down. They are a global force in the marketplace. There's no question about it. And this will turn.

Can you put your finger on what the agency might need?

We've focused on talent. . . . We recently added [North American president Robert] LePlae -- he's a great addition -- and some creative people along with him. Where we see we have needs, we go out and we get them.

Has your outlook changed on the second half or 2010? Are you any more optimistic than you were a few months ago?

Well, I'm optimistic because I'm reading a lot of people who think things are getting better (laughs).  . . . There's a fair amount of confidence that's beginning to build, which is good. And that will ultimately convert into a stronger recovery. Right now I'm still very cautious about the rest of the year. And I think 2010 will be an improvement over 2009.

Can't get any worse.

Exactly. But I just don't know how strong that recovery will be. So, we'll be cautious about that.

You get any insights from clients on that?

Yes, they're all waiting and watching. I'm not raising any big flags in terms of, happy days are here again, but I do think the worst is behind us.

Does it frustrate you that you can't get additional General Motors business without a review? I'm referring to Cadillac.

Look, the marketplace is what it is. This is not unusual. We're seeing a lot of companies do that. We're very comfortable with our offerings. We're delighted that Campbell-Ewald continues as agency of record [on Chevrolet]. As far as Cadillac goes, we've been doing work on Cadillac already and I think we're very well positioned to win the business. We're prepared to show what we've got.

What do you say to the naysayers who have seen Lowe struggle with mergers in the past?

This is a different IPG. It's a different management team, frankly. It's different leaders at the various respective businesses that we're talking about. And this isn't your father's IPG. This is a new company. We've shown that we can deliver in terms of the turnaround that we started a number of years ago. Draftfcb was another great example. The naysayers were there about that one and last quarter Draftfcb was among our best performers. It works when it's done well and the right people are doing it.

What's a reasonable amount of time to gauge the Lowe-Deutsch effort? Somebody told me six months.

I don't know who told you that. I don't have a crystal ball.

Tony Wright.

Is that what Tony told you? Well, if Tony says six months, then I'm going to hope it's three months (laughs).

You're the boss, right?

You bet.