Here’s Who May Gain From Publicis-Omnicom Client Fallout

With wide agency rosters, big marketers have options

As questions about marketer conflicts hover over the Publicis Omnicom Group deal, creating the real prospect of client fallout, rival agencies already working for such marketers seem best positioned to gain share.

For example, Coca-Cola, a client of Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett, employs many agencies around the world, including independent Wieden+Kennedy, Interpublic Group’s McCann Erickson, WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather and Droga5. So, should Coca-Cola choose to not coexist with arch rival PepsiCo in Publicis Omnicom, the beverage giant has plenty of options.

Likewise, MillerCoors, a client of Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi, also works with Cavalry, an agency that WPP Group set up last year to take on the Coors and Coors Light brands (which previously had been at Interpublic’s Draftfcb). In addition, Anheuser-Busch InBev, a client of Omnicom’s BBDO, has a roster of creative agencies that includes MDC Partners’ Anomaly and Translation, an independent shop led by Steve Stoute

Client defection from Publicis Omnicom Group also could benefit nonroster shops, industry consultants said. After all, moving big brands to brand new agencies is not unprecedented.

In 2010, after Chrysler split with Omnicom’s BBDO, the automaker redistributed much of its creative business among three agencies: independents Wieden and The Richards Group and MDC’s Doner. Before the BBDO divorce, none of those shops had worked for Chrysler.

The decision on whether to shift business out of Publicis Omnicom Group will hinge on several factors, consultants said. One is the level and quality of service a marketer is getting from its current agency: is the business doing well and will a change in horses upset that?

As long as marketers are “seeing stability in their agency,” why change? said Judy Neer, CEO of Pile + Co. in Boston. “That, to me, is what they should focus on right now.”

Another factor is the performance (and bandwidth) of other roster shops. Some may not have the resources to take on another brand, while others may be struggling with current assignments. A third variable? Whether the marketer prefers agency choice to consolidation. Some marketers like to spread their brands across several agencies, thinking that competition among multiple shops leads to better work, according to Neer. Consolidation at fewer shops is antithetical to that strategy.

Finally, there’s the X factor of sheer emotion. As Richard Roth of Roth Associates in New York put it, “Conflicts are emotional and not always real threats or fact. It has to do with the culture of the company.” And for that reason alone, Coke in particular may choose not to share a home with Pepsi.