Published by Simon Barrow, on 31/05/2011
From the mid seventies to the mid eighties I ran an advertising agency. We worked for Sharp Electronics, Chanel, Mercedes-Benz and Bassett”s Liquorice Allsorts. It was a bit later than the early sixties period which is the subject of the acclaimed TV show ‘Mad Men’ but close enough to remind me of the extraordinarily delicate task of balancing client needs, new business development, getting the creative work right plus managing the egos and ambitions of the most talented people in a market always short of them. “Simon, can I have a word with you? was a question I dreaded – it was always the start of a conversation about money or another job.
Mad Men’s writers are either brilliantly briefed or they too have been there and no better than when in Series 3 they cover the acquisition of the middle grounded New York agency Stirling Cooper by a large British company aiming to strengthen its US presence. Given People in Business’s work on the cultural integration aspects of M&A (27 transactions to date and just starting our 28th) this was a vintage lesson on some of the classic pitfalls which management can and does still fall into.
Misreading the business benefits
The London firm has lots of mouth-watering global clients who they feel will be an easily persuaded to use the newly acquired US agency. Of course they aren’t. Just as the London clients chose the London shop for its own skills, their NY counterparts are just as picky. The agency must be a great choice in its own right. Common ownership is never enough.
Damaging the existing leadership.
London puts in a Brit to manage NY who predictably dgfev online casino makes some classic errors like firing the Head of Client service and appointing two internal replacements while not telling each of them that this would be a joint role.
The Brit boss and his wife take the NY Creative Director Don Oftentimes a person will turn to marijuana drug test as a way to cope with an underlying mood or personality disorder, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), etc. Draper and his wife Betsy to an excruciating dinner in a grand restaurant where the Brit wife succeeds in insulting both guests by complaining about NY cockroaches. On the drive home to Rye, Don tells a surly Betsy Listen, I didn’t enjoy that anymore than you did
Interference on new business.
Stirling Cooper is close to winning Madison Square Gardens property development – a prize piece of business likely to lead to the imminent Worlds Fair project in NY. London blackballs the pitch on the grounds of high service costs..
It sounds like the last straw. Don Draper pushes back, asking “why on earth did you buy us ?” the Brit boss, at the end if his tether, replies “Frankly I just don’t know”
The aftermath of all this makes for more great writing in the rest of Series 3 and now Series 4. In real life of course, events like this continue to happen when deal makers and top management anticipate the rewards of doing a deal (in Stirling |Coopers case to pay for a partners expensive divorce) without sufficient planning of what is likely to happen in real life on the ground.
Of course deal makers don’t spend much time helping to assure sustained value post merger. M&A advisers are paid for getting a deal done not making it work by building a shared Employer Brand reflecting the best of both organisations and contributing to future success.
As a great Editor of Campaign (the news magazine for the advertsing and communication industry), Bernard Barnet, once said ” There are many ways to ruin an advertising agency but I have never come across anything more effective than merger or acquisition”.
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