Publicis and BBH: Trouble in paradise?
Global - When Publicis bought stake in BBH in 2002, it drew flak from P&G and its stake was restricted to 49%.
The group faced a similar situation in 2005, after its media planning and buying arm ZenithOptimedia won P&G's rival L'Oréal's global planning and buying duties.
But with last week's news that Publicis had acquired the remaining stake of BBH, new questions are being asked.
Publicis holds a close relationship with Procter & Gamble while BBH works with a number of Unilever brands.
While a lot has been written about BBH being provided autonomy, some say that bringing two global FMCG giants under one roof, is a risk.
Others suggest that as long as the management is independent, there should not be any trouble.
Subhash Kamath, managing partner at BBH India, stoically affirms: "There is absolutely no conflict."
"Unilever is a large and important client. We handle Unilever. We are independent and will continue to function that way. We have nothing to do with the agencies handling P&G brands. We compete in the market as independent companies," he says.
Not too long ago, Jean-Yves Naouri, chief operating officer and member of the management board, Publicis Groupe and executive chairman, Publicis Worldwide, explained the philosophy of the Publicis Groupe.
"We have a philosophy called 'Viva La Difference' (or 'long live the difference').
"It means we understand cultural differences. Not every client wants the same philosophy and vision, and we can offer a variety of diverse agencies to clients," Naouri said.
So with its latest acquisition, will feathers continue to be ruffled, especially when we are talking of two of the biggest advertisers in the world?
The key apparently lies in what Kamath said - allowing BBH to function independently.
Anil S Nair, chief executive officer and managing partner, Law & Kenneth, says clients do not demand exclusivity to agencies these days at such an extreme level.
"Unilever's relation with BBH is a very strong story as the agency has helped in turning around the game for many of its products in many markets.
"Similarly, Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett's relationship with P&G runs for decades. In fact, people managing the brands in the agency would have greater knowledge when compared to a brand manager of the company. The takeover is just about controlling shareholding," Nair says.
- Bartle Bogle Hegarty
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