Omnicom Group Inc and Publicis Groupe SA say they are combining in a “merger of equals” that will create the world’s largest advertising firm, one worth more than $30 billion.
The combined company will be called Publicis Omnicom Group and be jointly led by Omnicom CEO John Wren and Publicis CEO Maurice Levy as co-chief executives. The move is designed to bolster the companies’ focus on growing Asian and Latin American markets such as China and Brazil, where they each have ramped up operations to counter lackluster growth in weak European markets.
But although a combined firm will allow for more pricing power in general, the decrease in competition could present regulatory hurdles in the US and Europe. Client conflicts also could be an issue, as rivals such as Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, Yum Brands’ Taco Bell, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble now find themselves under the same umbrella.
Omnicom Group Inc, based in New York, owns BBDO Worldwide, DDB Worldwide Communications Group and TBWA Worldwide, among other agencies.
Paris-based Publicis Groupe SA runs its namesake agency as well as Leo Burnett Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi and DigitasLBi. Their merger creates a company with combined annual revenue of about $23 billion, leapfrogging them over current London-based industry leader WPP PLC.
For the first year, Omnicom chairman Bruce Crawford will serve as non-executive chairman of the new company. He will be succeeded by Elisabeth Badinter, the current Publicis Groupe chairwoman, and daughter of its founder, for the second year.
Omnicom, which also owns public relations firms such as Fleishman-Hillard, Porter Novelli and Ketchum, reported 2012 profit of nearly $1 billion on revenue of $14.22 billion.
Founded in 1986, Omnicom generates just over half of its revenue from US clients, and about one-quarter from European and British markets combined.
Omnicom will benefit from Publicis’ strategic shift in the last few years toward digital operations, as the French company beefed up its digital marketing profile with the acquisitions of Digitas, Razorfish, Rosetta, Big Fuel and LBi.
A major concern, though, is whether the two firms can strike a harmonious balance of power — something that can be difficult in mergers of similar-sized companies based in different countries.