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Publicis And Omnicom Are Merging To Form A $35.1B Advertising Leviathan

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Today Publicis and Omnicom, two of the “big five” global advertising and marketing agencies, announced a “merger of equals”, in which the two will combine to create the world’s biggest agency, with some $22.7 billion in annual revenues and a market capitalization of $35.1 billion. The pair say that the new Publicis Omnicom Group initially will be jointly run by the two existing CEOs, John Wren from Omnicom and Maurice Levy from Publicis, and headquartered both in New York and Paris, with a holding company HQ in the Netherlands.

The companies will trade publicly as ONC (currently Omnicom’s symbol) on both the NYSE and Euronext.

The confirmation — after reports of the deal swirled earlier this week — was delivered today in a press conference on a hot Sunday summer afternoon in Paris — a slightly oxymoronic setting for a megadeal.

“For many years, we have had great respect for one another as well as for the companies we each lead. This respect has grown in the past few months as we have worked to make this combination a reality. We look forward to co-leading the combined company and are excited about what our people can achieve together for our clients and our shareholders,” the co-CEOs said together.

If Google is the world’s biggest digital advertising network, the merger of these two will create an advertising megacorp that will be the world’s biggest provider of advertising to feed that machine. It will be twice the size of its nearest rival, WPP. While there are two other agencies in addition to these, Interpublic and Havas, they are significantly smaller. This will lead, inevitably, to antitrust scrutinty from regulators. Today, the companies, both already global operators, noted that they will need regulatory approval in 41-46 countries.

“We are not expecting anything that would prevent us from going forward,” Wren said at the press conference (according to Reuters). “We are confident that we will get regulatory approvals,” Levy also noted.

It may also spur more merger activities among other players.

Without a doubt, the history of the ad industry has been one of ongoing consolidation, and in that regard this seems like a logical and inevitable step. Some of the agencies that were once rivals and will now coexist under one owner will include BBDO, Saatchi & Saatchi, DDB, Leo Burnett, Razorfish, Publicis Worldwide, Fleishman-Hillard, DigitasLBi, Ketchum, StarcomMediaVest, OMD, BBH, Interbrand and ZenithOptimedia, with clients covering some of the world’s biggest buyers of advertising, including mobile carriers like Verizon and AT&T, drinks companies like Coca-Cola, financial services companies like Visa, and many more. The companies say they will have “efficiences” of $500 million as a result of the deal; whether that will lead to layoffs or closures has yet to be announced.

But while this plays to type in some regards, the world of advertising and marketing is also up against growth of other disruptive forces, for example the change in consumer habits brought about by the internet. That has taken the rug out from some of the more traditional formats for advertising, such as print media, and pushed more spend towards digital formats like the internet and mobile advertising.

These are still relatively smaller players in the wider advertising ecosystem: worldwide there will be about $519 billion spent in marketing and advertising this year across all mediums. But if you break out a newer area like mobile advertising, it’s expected to be just under $9 billion this year globally, according to the IAB.

Still, the smart money sees the writing on the wall. TV advertising dominates today, Nielsen noted earlier this week, but it has grown by just 3.5% so far this year while Internet has gone up by 26.3%. The IAB estimated that mobile will go up by 83% this year.

Publicis and Omnicom’s rival WPP projects that by 2018, 40% of ad spend that it oversees will come from digital. That is driving a number of acquisitions and investments, but it is also fuelling the rise of a new kind of advertising company focused around advertising technology (ad tech) to better measure, leverage and distribute ads in these new mediums. The rise of digital media is also dovetailing with the growth of advertising and digital opportunities in emerging markets like China, South America, India and so on.

All of this plays strongly into the technology and startup ecosystem, both in terms of the companies that are growing up around these innovations, but also because such a large part of the tech world is built around the consumer internet, and much of the consumer internet is built on free, ad-based models. Consolidation of players like Omnicom and Publicis speaks to a growing desire to better scale and consolidate on the kinds of returns at can be made from newer platforms like the internet.