Neogama loses Bradesco, Omo to Interpublic – and 40% of its revenue

January 30, 2013

alexandre-gamaNot all fairy tales have a happy ending. One such is the marriage of convenience between Brazilian hotshop Neogama, its micro-network affiliate BBH and Publicis Groupe. Readers of this blog will recall that, a little over six months ago, Publicis chief Maurice Lévy bought out the 51% of BBH PG did not already own. A useful by-product of the deal was that he acquired not only BBH’s 34% stake in one of Brazil’s hottest agency properties, but the majority shareholding of its founder and creative supremo, Alexandre Gama, at the same time. Neatly, Lévy solved the creative succession crisis at BBH with the same stroke of his pen – by appointing Gama as BBH’s global creative chief, replacing Sir John Hegarty.

Alas, the deal has worked out somewhat better for Gama than for Lévy and Publicis. Gama managed to bank his cheque, but Neogama has just lost about 40% of its revenue, and two of its principal clients. Or so I hear.

It is common knowledge that one of the reasons Gama was hawking his majority stake in the first place was that he feared his agency was too reliant upon a single account, that of Brazilian bank Bradesco. Indeed, rumours soon began to surface that the bank was about to review. Well, now it has: and placed the account with McCann.

For Interpublic, McCann’s parent, Neogama’s plight is, however, a double joy. Another major – this time multinational – client has also fallen into its lap. I mean Omo (“Dirt is Good”), which has moved to Lowe.

In retrospect, we can see this was an accident waiting to happen. As is well known, PG is a Procter & Gamble agency group, and Omo is owned by Unilever. Under the status quo ante, Neogama had an element of protection from client conflict, in that BBH – itself a major Unilever network – was still majority-owned by its founding partners (i.e., Nigel Bogle and Hegarty). All that ring-fencing was swept away by the Lévy deal.

8027388763_a9feed3b19_zIt will interesting to see who gets the blame for this cock-up. My money is on Jean-Yves Naouri, the once but not future king of Publicis.

One thing you can be sure of: it won’t be the Silver Fox himself, who now seems comfortably ensconced in a permanent chairman role, despite recent protestations that he was – at 70 – on the point of retiring.

Alexandre Gama central to deal, as BBH sells 51% stake to Publicis Groupe

July 5, 2012

The other shoe has dropped. Not only has Publicis Groupe bought up Neogama BBH (see my post of yesterday), it has also taken the opportunity to acquire the 51% stake in BBH it did not already own. As will be seen, the two acquisitions are intimately related.

By any standards, this is a historic moment for all concerned. The old guard at one of Britain’s most illustrious agencies is moving aside after 30 years to make way for new management.

Down step the two surviving partners, group chairman Nigel Bogle (pictured) and worldwide chief creative officer Sir John Hegarty – both legends in their own lifetimes. Up step Simon Sherwood to Bogle’s position (he is currently group CEO), Gwyn Jones to Sherwood’s role and Neil Munn, CEO of BBH’s branding specialist Zig Zag, to an additional group chief operating role.

But here’s the clever bit. Neogama founding partner and chief shareholder Alexandre Gama is taking on Hegarty’s mantle as worldwide chief creative officer.

This too is highly symbolic. In seeking a successor to Hegarty, BBH and its paymaster PG have cast their net wide and picked someone quintessentially representative of the new wave of creativity coming out of emerging markets. The centre of gravity – they are saying in so many words – has changed, from Britain to Brazil, and countries like it.

The change from first generation agency to second generation management is always accompanied by high risk, no matter how successful that agency. Remember Collett Dickenson Pearce anyone?

But this deal has been carefully crafted to hedge, as best anyone can, against such a risk. The rounded symbolism of 30 years clearly suggests Bogle and Hegarty have long mulled their departure at this point. No one can accuse them of failing to bring on the next generation of management.

The Gama move is, however, a genuine surprise and must have been opportunistically fashioned out of Gama’s decision to sell his stake last year. Clever old Gama for parlaying his position so well. But a hat tip to Publicis group chief Maurice Lévy as well for crafting such an imaginative solution.

Now all they need to do is sort out the Unilever problem.

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