Rivals Throw Water on Publicis Omnicom Merger

CEOs from Havas, JWT question the deal's size, leadership

The Publicis Omnicom merger will create the biggest ad holding company in history, but is that a good thing? David Jones, global CEO of rival Havas, thinks not.

“The complexity is enormous,”  Jones said at an Advertising Week panel today. “I don’t think you’ll have a single client say, ‘We’re a smaller fish in a bigger pond’” and be glad about it.

Bob Jeffrey, CEO of JWT, also was quick to throw mud on the merger. “You have two different personalities, two CEOs. That’s a recipe for a problem.”

Ross Levinsohn, CEO of (Adweek parent) Guggenheim Digital Media, and perhaps a more impartial observer, argued that the merger’s success will come down to its execution, not size, though. “I think it lives or dies based on ruthless execution,” he said. “There’s no such thing as too big anymore. How many employees does Google have?”

The panel also debated whether the massive changes taking place in how people consume content and use social media is a blessing or curse for advertisers.

With cord-cutting, reaching people is much harder today, making it incumbent on media companies to aggressively experiment, Levinsohn said. “Really, for the future, it’s cord-nevers,” he said. “People in the room with kids 3 to 10—they don’t know from cords.”

On one hand, people who watch television on their own terms instead of linear TV are probably more engaged with the content, said Josh Sapan, president and CEO of AMC Networks.

Still, social media can be perilous for brands, as AT&T and others have learned when tweeting about 9/11 and other disasters, according to Havas’ Jones. “People will take you apart,” he said.

That said, the information available through those channels can be great for brands because it allows for better matching of ad messages to consumers, said Eric Bader, CMO of digital sales platform RadiumOne. “The more people love content and share it … that creates an extra level of targeting capability to advertisers,” he said.