Media coverage of the "merger of equals" deal cut between Omnicom and Publicis Groupe leads one to think that OMC's John Wren (60) will assume the helm of the world's biggest ad/PR combine, following a 30-month dual CEO run with Maurice Levy (71). One shouldn't bet the farm on that assumption.
The rise of Big Data is among key drivers of the transaction. Levy has been in the forefront of positioning his Paris-based operation as a leader in the digital era.
That's evidenced through major acquisitions such as Digitas ($1.3B), Razorfish ($530M) and Rosetta ($575M). Digital generates 37 percent of Publicis' first-half revenues of $4.3B. That tally was up an impressive 11 percent during a tough first-half. Publicis made another Internet splash earlier this month, announcing a live digital advertising partnership with AOL.
Under Wren, Omnicom has been building its in-house digital capabilities. If Big Data and automated trading of ad space to compete with Google and Facebook are the future of communications then Levy isn’t leaving Publicis Omnicom.
The tender sensitivities of France's government also work in Levy's favor. Publicis is France's national advertising champion. The company's headquarters is on the Champs-Elysees, only steps away from the Arc de Triomphe, which tellingly was used as a backdrop for the merger announcement.
Putting Wren in charge of Publicis Omnicom is akin to planting Old Glory on top of France's most important landmark. The French government would be aghast.
And for what it's worth, Levy won an O'Dwyer "What CEO would you like to share a cup of holiday cheer with?" poll a few years back. WPP's Martin Sorrell trailed, while Wren and Interpublic's Michael Roth split the remainder of the tally.
Levy -- with Sorrell -- is one of the few CEO spokespeople for advertising/PR. Wren is perceived as a financial engineer. The communications business needs all the personality that it can get.
Vive Maurice -- but why, oh why, did you cook up the OMC hook-up?