Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Don't Need Big Deals to Be in Big Time

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Don't Need Big Deals to Be in Big Time

Article excerpt

Byline: James Ashton City Editor

HE MIGHT have been at the top of the industry tree for getting on a decade, but Michael Roth is being forced to play a waiting game like the rest of adland.

The Mad Man at the helm of holding company Interpublic, home to advertising agencies Lowe and McCann Erickson and public relations outfit Weber Shandwick, can only speculate what the combination of rival networks Publicis and Omnicom announced last July will look like. With fresh tax problems emerging, the tie-up may not happen at all.

"Look, it's taking a lot of time to get this thing done," says Roth, observing on a recent trip to London that the new market leader has still to file documents with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that will give a more detailed picture of its finances.

The uncertainty should mean plenty of opportunity for WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell, whom Roth describes carefully as a "strong competitor", and for Interpublic. Both are eyeing the prize of the Pepsi or Coca-Cola accounts which the Publicis-Omnicom deal brings under the same roof. Roth reports "a lot of wait and see" among clients. More importantly, what is the 68-year-old New Yorker's pitch as his firm, which once led an industry obsessed with scale, finds itself trailing as a distant number three? "We have been competing with WPP for years and we have fared pretty well," he says, sipping water in a corner of Bafta on Piccadilly. "We have never viewed ourselves at a disadvantage because of our size."

Rather than making big moves, Roth argues that Interpublic is not lacking in any marketing discipline. It has maintained key relationships with beauty giant L'Oreal for which it coined the Because I'm Worth It tagline and it has worked for Unilever for more than half a century. But history won't help it thrive in an industry where "the speed of change has been amazing". …

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