The MacManus Group

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The MacManus Group was the short-lived holding company created to house the various marketing services agencies of the DMB&B (or D'Arcy) agency network between 1996 and 1999. It was named after legendary copywriter Theodore MacManus, whose agency (see MacManus Inc) had, 60 years previously, formed one of the main platforms for the creation of DMB&B. As part of the wave of consolidation which swept through the industry at the end of that decade, MacManus Group swapped its increasingly fragile position as one of the lower-ranking global ad organisations for a share in one of the global leaders, when it was swallowed up into what is now Publicis Groupe.

This process began when DMB&B agreed to rescue ailing NW Ayer in 1996. Once one of the giants of the industry, Ayer had fallen upon hard times in the 1990s. In order to keep the new purchase separate from its existing DMB&B advertising network and avoid confusion between the two businesses, a holding company was created along similar lines to Cordiant, the parent entity created a year earlier for the Saatchi & Saatchi and Bates networks. In this case, however, CEO Roy Bostock elected to delve into the group's history in search of a suitable name, and found it with a tribute to famed copywriter Theodore MacManus, whose agency had been absorbed into the group in 1971.

Bostock became chairman & CEO of the new parent group, which also absorbed Ayer's web subsidiary Blue Marble, itself rapidly outgrowing its original parent. However over the next two years, Ayer continued to contract, while DMB&B expanded, extending its global reach with the acquisition of Barbarella Gagliardi Saffiro in Italy and Bensimon-Byrne in Canada. By 1998, MacManus Group's annual billings topped $7.6bn (according to Advertising Age), and the company managed more than 7,400 employees in 150 offices worldwide. However, DMB&B still accounted for more than 90% of billings.

The group had a disappointing year in 1998 as a result of economic problems in Russia and Asia. As the pace of consolidation increased within the industry, privately owned MacManus began to face immense pressure from Omnicom, Interpublic and WPP, whose public status gave them access to far greater investment capital. One small consolation for MacManus was that it was not alone. Rivals Leo Burnett and Y&R were experiencing similar challenges. During 1998, MacManus and Leo Burnett spent much time talking about a merger of their respective media divisions in a global joint venture. The first step came with the formation towards the end of that year of StarVest, a UK-based joint venture between Leo Burnett's Starcom media department and DMB&B's MediaVest to manage Procter & Gamble's £150m TV buying business.

But soon afterwards, just one week before the expected announcement of a full global merger of the two media arms, the deal appeared to collapse as a result of disagreements over the structure of the US division of the new company. In early 1999, MacManus was reported to have opened talks with Grey advertising regarding a merger of MediaVest with MediaCom, but these too came to nothing. Later that year, MacManus announced the rebranding of its main advertising network under the new name D'Arcy Worldwide.

By the end of 1999, it looked increasingly likely that D'Arcy was on the verge of losing its independence. It seemed virtually certain that Interpublic would be the buyer, with D'Arcy slotting neatly into the gap created following the bigger group's merger of its Lowe and Ammirati Puris Lintas networks. But Leo Burnett had other plans. According to industry rumours, so did Mars, then one of D'Arcy's biggest clients. The confectionery and petfood giant was unhappy about the prospect of sitting beside arch-rival Nestle within Interpublic's client portfolio, and threatened to pull its business from MacManus. This gave Leo Burnett the opportunity to resurrect their previous negotiations from 1998 and a deal was agreed within weeks. In fact the combination of D'Arcy and Burnett was a near-perfect fit, with the two agencies sharing key clients such as Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Philip Morris.

The newly minted group subsequently adopted the new name BCom3. With the further consolidation of BCom3 into Publicis, and subsequent elimination of the D'Arcy network, MacManus Group's heritage had been virtually erased by the end of 2003.

Last full revision 30th October 2017

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