MacLaren, McCann merger a done deal

MacLaren and McCann, two of the most venerable names in Canadian advertising, are now together in one agency.With one bold stroke that was surprisingly unimpaired by client conflicts, New York-based Interpublic Group of Companies has created Canada's second-largest ad agency by...

MacLaren and McCann, two of the most venerable names in Canadian advertising, are now together in one agency.

With one bold stroke that was surprisingly unimpaired by client conflicts, New York-based Interpublic Group of Companies has created Canada’s second-largest ad agency by combining all the accounts, staff and management of the former MacLaren Lintas and McCann-Erickson Advertising.

At the same time, the Lintas name shifts over to Ammirati & Puris here to mirror what has happened in the u.s.

The result is two new Toronto agencies: MacLaren McCann and Ammirati & Puris Lintas, both Canadian arms of Interpublic.

By far the the bigger of the two is MacLaren McCann, a full-fledged member of the McCann-Erickson Worldwide system, with billings in Canada of $375 million.

A&P Lintas becomes the Canadian operation for Lintas Worldwide.

For the moment, however, the Lintas system accounts currently with MacLaren will move into the new MacLaren McCann.

More important than new agency shingles or the status of Lintas accounts, the realignment gives both a&p and MacLaren, at the very least, some important breathing space in addressing the potential conflict between Molson Breweries and Labatt Breweries of Canada.

While Molson, a cornerstone MacLaren account, and Labatt, a dominant piece of business with newcomer a&p, seemed appeased for the time being by assurances that MacLaren and a&p operated as separate entities, speculation had grown that this point of view might change after Martin Puris took over recently as the worldwide head of A&P Lintas.

Puris’ reputation for hands-on involvement and his role in landing the Labatt account over a year ago made a showdown in Canada appear imminent with the spectre of both MacLaren Chief Executive Officer Tony Miller and a&p Chairman Tom Nelson reporting to Puris.

The looming beer conflict was just one of a number of pressing business issues that became neatly resolved through a merger between MacLaren and McCann.

The empty space at McCann’s modern Toronto lakefront office, brought about by a string of account losses over the past couple of years, will provide a perfect new home for MacLaren.

Also, McCann’s desire to build more critical mass – a widespread story after talks with shops such as Padulo Integrated became public – plus its equally well-known search for a new Toronto president to replace Craig Simpson, will both be instantly answered with the arrival of Miller and his troops.

In the end, with no account conflicts standing in the way, the decision to merge the two operations made unassailable business sense, according to Philip Geier, Interpublic chairman and ceo in an interview with Strategy.

‘Everybody’s a winner,’ Geier says. ‘We get something out of it, our clients get something out of it, and we become more efficient in Canada.’

The key management and operational changes look like this:

- Miller moves over from the Lintas organization to become an employee within the McCann system as chairman and ceo of MacLaren McCann, reporting to John Dooner, chairman and ceo of McCann Worldwide in New York.

- Jacques Duval, chairman and ceo of Montreal-based Marketel, continues in that role and the possibility of some future assignment in Europe opens up with his new responsibilities as senior vice-president of McCann Worldwide.

- In Montreal, the existing Tribu Lintas agency will be absorbed into the Marketel operation and run under the Marketel name. The ownership of Marketel, which is 51% Canadian, remains unchanged.

- In Toronto, recently appointed MacLaren Creative Director Rick Davis will be overall creative director of the new agency. McCann Creative Director Stephen Blair will retain a senior creative role at the group creative level.

- Initiative Media will remain virtually unchanged and McCann media director Paula Tillmann Peirce will join Initiative Media.

- In Vancouver, McCann and Scali McCabe Sloves are unaffected.

- Similarly, in Toronto, the other Interpublic corporate sibling in Canada, Lowe SMS, is unaffected by the changes.

Miller says that the heritage built around the MacLaren name in Canada remains a strength that he believes will be transferrable to its new incarnation.

‘It’s interesting that MacLaren has been able to remain within the top three positions in this country over the years,’ he says. ‘Now we’re able to restage ourselves and maintain that position.’

For Duval, who has had his work cut out for him in trying to revitalize the McCann Toronto office, an alliance with MacLaren allows him to build on what he describes as a surging McCann operation.

Duval points to the numerous creative awards that McCann has garnered over the past year or so, plus a host of unpublicized account wins as evidence that the agency’s wounds are well-healed and the shop is poised to become a factor in the marketplace, especially with its new partner.