Forced togetherness: Merger mania is but a symptom of growth at all costs.

August 1, 2013

Let them eat cake!

And so Publicis and Omnicom have joined forces, which, I suppose, is a cool way of putting it. But whatever they did they did it and like any marriage it is for better and for worse. Only time will tell.

Time will also bring us more of the same. To wit: For all their current blather about being right sized the other now-conspicuously smaller marketing driven holding companies will undoubtedly conspire, eventually, whether they like it or not. That is the only possible outcome when growth is your mandate. And in the modern, Western way of doing things (especially business), growth is always the mandate.

Precedents are manifest. After all was not Omnicom once a collection of smaller agencies? Likewise Publicis, Havas and Interpublic. Merger upon acquisition upon takeover. Agencies have been gobbling each other up for decades now. And what do we make of Sir Martin’s WPP? Everyone in Adland loves to debunk him but here we are imitating his strategy. Publicis Omnicom Groupe is but a continuation of growth at all costs.

sir martin sorrell
“Join me!”

Despite all the obvious, negative evidence (can you say cancer?) “growth” is considered equal to great. Even being eaten alive is considered a positive event. And not just for the eaters but the consumed bodies as well. Here, in Silicon Valley, the great wish of all start-ups is to be bought. It’s the same with big, old-fashioned businesses. Morgan Stanley and Dean Witter. JP Morgan Chase. Think about Kraft, General Foods, GE, Wrigley. We can name many more. They are all a collection of other companies, some not related at all. Last I checked, Wilson Sporting Goods was owned by Sara Lee. Cheese cake and tennis rackets?

Who cares? It’s growth.

Playing the devil’s advocate I must recognize the beauty of “coming together as one.” Isn’t that the promise of One World? It takes a village, right? Maybe if Israel and the Arab nations came together that age-old war would finally be over. What’s that bumper sticker say: COEXIST. “Can’t we all get along?”

You scoff. Hell, I scoff. I don’t believe in arranged marriages. They might “work” but they don’t hum. Ask FCB and Draft.


Forced togetherness doesn’t hum because it denies cultural identity –at the individual level and at the group level. Tribes do not want to be taken over in the name of manifest destiny. The only ones who (sometimes) profit are the tribal chiefs (shareholders), and when they are over and done with all that remains is the result: a big tumorous entity. Perhaps the most telling example of forced togetherness is the European Union. Has that merger worked? Maybe someday. But right now it’s something between “working” and a clusterfuck.


3 Responses to “Forced togetherness: Merger mania is but a symptom of growth at all costs.”

  1. Steffan always on point, especially on the point about forced togetherness. I was having dinner last night with a colleague who was sharing an anecdote of a time when he was part of a swat team that would ultimately become the team to operate a “global” holding business where country businesses and sales forces were no longer banded by country, but instead by divisions. Poor decision in the end with it coming unglued in three years with a bit of profitless prosperity as a result.

    • Steffan1 said

      Thank you, Carmen for your comment. I’ve experience those “swat teams” first hand… forcing togetherness… for “bit of profitless prosperity.”

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