The completion of the Publicis Groupe-Omnicom merger will likely be pushed back to the second quarter, pending regulatory approvals. But that delay is doing little to stem speculation about which executives will influence the integration that will form the ad industryâ€™s largest player.
Until the deal is done, the two are still competitors. Because of that, discussions remain at a corporate rather than operational level and center on understanding combined capabilities, according to sources.
Executive moves will, of course, depend on whether Paris-based Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice LĂ©vy or Omnicom chief John Wren, in New York, becomes the dominant force in the co-CEO structure. (The betting money right now is on Wren leading the charge.) While in no way a definitive list, these are several of the players who could help steer the new Publicis Omnicom Groupâ€”some obvious, others not so much.
CFO, Omnicom Group
Wren first met the investment banker in the late â€™90s at their daughtersâ€™ primary school in Greenwich, Conn. He convinced Weisenburger, then CEO at Wasserstein & Co., to move to Omnicom as CFO in 1999, and the two have worked closely ever since. (They are the face of Omnicomâ€™s lean holding company, and in recent years Weisenburger was seen as a possible Wren heir.) Respected and familiar with Wall Streetâ€™s ways, Weisenburger is considered a shoo-in for a top job, particularly if Wren calls the shots. But Publicis Groupe CFO Jean-Michel Etienne was involved in acquisitions like Saatchi & Saatchi, Bcom3, Digitas and Razorfish and possesses major integration experience Weisenburger lacks. Etienne might become CFO at the merged company (which will now have more European investors), with Weisenburger taking the COO role.
President, CEO, BBDO Worldwide
Robertson is the best-regarded among Omnicom agency chiefsâ€”even the recent losses of Gillette and Bank of America havenâ€™t tarnished that reputation. Known for his client expertise and professional standing, he was the favorite to succeed Wren before the merger announcement. Now any succession plan has been pushed back, and some wonder whether the 53-year-old, who marks his 10th anniversary as BBDO chief this year, is getting restless and looking for a challenge elsewhere. If the well-compensated Robertsonâ€”who reportedly has incentives not to leave for another agency jobâ€”gets disenchanted, he might look outside the ad business. (He is said to have had discussions in the past about a top job at HBO.) But if he stays at Publicis Omnicom, he may inherit an even bigger prize.
Evp, Omnicom Group
Ruhanenâ€™s promotion in October to a holding company job, where heâ€™s handling larger clients and forging cross-agency collaboration, is the latest move in grooming the exec for a bigger role. Since he joined BBDO New York in 2004, Ruhanen has run the agencyâ€™s billion-dollar AT&T business and climbed the ranks to become CEO of the Americas, BBDOâ€™s largest region. The Australian moved to BBDO from Sydney, where he ran Publicisâ€™ Leo Burnett. (He understands merger integration, having overseen Burnettâ€™s acquisition of Cartwright Williams and Dâ€™Arcy.) Ruhanen is known in both corporate camps and in recent years was rumored to be in the running for a top job at both Burnett and Omnicomâ€™s TBWA. Now, with nearly half of the industryâ€™s networks under one company, there will be even more leadership opportunities for this upwardly mobile exec.
Global CEO, Publicis
Sadoun is a Publicis Groupe rising star and was named global chief executive of its namesake agency in October, but the jury is out on how he will fare on a bigger stage. He is famous in France, with his TV personality wife and a life thatâ€™s covered in the pages of Paris Match. But his early success at Paris shop Publicis Conseil hasnâ€™t been matched at Publicis France and Europe. (Sadoun knows Omnicom: Before Publicis, he ran TBWA Paris and sold an agency to BBDO.) Sadoun replaced Publicis global executive chairman Jean-Yves Naouri, who was thought to be in line for LĂ©vyâ€™s job; now itâ€™s unclear if Naouri will stay. That said, Naouri may handle shared services at the merged companies, something he did well at Publicis Groupe.
Chairman, CEO, Omnicom Media Group
Publicis Groupe is the only holding company without a media holding unit akin to its competitors, and Simmâ€”the architect behind the creation of OMGâ€”would be the right guy to build a combined operation should that happen. (Additionally, Simm doesnâ€™t have a Publicis counterpart since Jack Klues, CEO of Publicis Groupeâ€™s digital and media network VivaKi, retired.) Simm first earned global cred when he was head of Procter & Gambleâ€™s worldwide media at just 33. If he gets the top job, itâ€™s unclear how Laura Desmond, Starcom MediaVest Group global CEO and Publicisâ€™ highest ranking U.S.-based media exec, will react. Desmond, who reportedly had unsuccessfully angled to become Kluesâ€™ successor, is said to be reluctant to work for Simm and is putting out feelers for a new job, something Publicis denies and Desmond declined to address.
Hagedorn led the creation of Annalect, Omnicomâ€™s new digital, data and analytics platform, which Wren touted to Wall Street as â€śtransformationalâ€ť in the way agencies leverage information. Catching the Omnicom chiefâ€™s eye is the latest accolade for Hagedorn, an executive whose crossover career has spanned digital and traditional media. (He previously served as U.S. CEO of OMGâ€™s PHD, managing director of corporate sibling media company OMD East, U.S. director of OMD digital and chief interactive officer of Omnicomâ€™s direct unit, Rapp.) In three years, Annalect has grown into a 850-person global organization he created with the assistance of Wrenâ€™s digital architect Jonathan Nelson. The unit pitches outside the industry against the likes of Adobe, McKinsey and Nielsen. In contrast to Publicis, Annalect underscores Omnicomâ€™s philosophy of â€śbuilding not buyingâ€ť when it comes to generating growth in the digital arena.
Global president, VivaKiâ€™s Audience on Demand
In the newly merged company, Publicis dominates digital. While VivaKi chief innovation officer and chair of DigitasLBi and Razorfish Rishad Tobaccowala is expected to play a major integration role, observers are also closely watching Kurt Unkel, who is rising quickly within the VivaKi hierarchy. In 2013, he was named to his current role following a VivaKi reorganization, taking charge of AOD, one of VivaKiâ€™s fastest growing practices and largest revenue drivers. Unkel built AOD from one of the first agency-led ad-trading platforms into a global operation. (After launching in Amsterdam and Singapore in 2013, it will set up shop in China this year.) Previously, Unkel proved that he could work with complicated global marketers, creating and leading digital strategy, investment, analytics and ad operations across Publicis Groupe with a focus on General Motors.
Chief growth and strategy officer, Publicis Groupeâ€™s digital technologies division
Beringer is said to be a go-to digital guy within Publicis Groupe, and the Paris-based executive reportedly has the ear of CEO Maurice LĂ©vy. Last year, Beringer was promoted to his current role, where his mandate is to create cross-agency client teams using DigitasLBi and Razorfish resourcesâ€”experience that would be well suited for the cross-utilization of assets within Publicis Omnicom. He earlier cultivated those skills as CEO, international, for the companyâ€™s Digitas and Razorfish operations, where he created similar teams across 11 international offices. Beringer is no stranger to Omnicom operations: In the â€™90s, he created an agency in Germany that would become Omnicomâ€™s Tribal DDB, and as a founding member of Tribal DDB, Beringer established new offices and became president of EMEA, where he tripled the regional footprint to 24 offices.