Arun Sudhaman 24 Jun 2009 // 11:06AM GMT
The big merger between Omnicom agencies Ketchum & Pleon is something that has been bubbling under the surface for a while. Given the way PR revenues have been hit in recent months, it won't suprise too many people and Ketchum and Pleon are, geographically at least, reasonably complementary. But one region where this doesn't add up to much is Asia-Pacific. Ketchum, at present, exists only in Greater China - where it is one of the mainland's stronger agencies. Pleon, meanwhile, was previously associated with Brodeur in Asia-Pacific, and has a barely minimal presence of its own in the region. So the upshot must be that the new agency, which is actually called Ketchum, will need to seriously consider acquisition if they want to deliver on the idea of becoming one of the world's key PR networks. As one Asia-Pacific PR agency chief put it to me: "Big move for Omnicom. They will need to buy in A-P...it is their vulnerability." As for Brodeur, you could be forgiven for wondering what it will mean for an agency that has worked hard to try and build a cohesive network across Asia-Pacific, with little fanfare. They will now align with sister Omnicom agency GBC Partners. I asked Brodeur Asia-Pacific president Rick Allen what all these changes really mean for the agency, and this is what he had to say:
"As you probably know, since it was established 4-5 years ago Pleon has had a strategic focus on the EMEA market. Their focus on Asia Pacific was always very tactical – an as-needed outreach in support of EMEA-based clients and prospects. So our regional network has enjoyed some inbound business opportunities from EMEA via Pleon over the years. And while contributing ideas and information, there was no significant investment nor did they participate in managing and growing the Asia Pacific network. This has always been Brodeur’s responsibility. Moving forwards, what we see is a rejuvenated Brodeur Partners operation. In place of Pleon in Europe is the GBC Group which is now formally part of our Brodeur Partner global network. GBC is a great complement to our operation due to the cultural and entrepreneurial fit, the close sector mapping they have compared to us, and particularly their major focus on social media. I’ve known the GBC principals – Sue Grant and Jill Coomber – for over a decade, and have worked with them on many occasions over the years. I expect this will greatly enhance our geographic liaison and partnering as we explore inter-regional opportunities. So this realignment is, in some respects, back to the future for us: it’s a return to our entrepreneurial roots, with a strong footing in the application of technology to business, utilising the latest emerging tools and techniques to ensure that our clients are heard and differentiated in the noise of the marketplace. With this there is an energy and momentum that we enjoyed in the buzzy period of the late 1990s, so we’re all excited."You can understand Rick putting a positive spin on developments. Brodeur is still largely based on affiliate relationships in Asia-Pacific - so any attempts to forge significant growth are likely to require investment in agencies. Whether that will happen as quickly now that the Ketchum/Pleon 'colossus' has been created, remains to be seen.