15 MARCH 1975, Page 24


Citizens of the world

Philip Kleinman

Another fine old English advertising company has ceased to be entirely English, but far from feeling any patriotic shame the firm in question, Charles Barker, has been taking space in the newspapers to crow about its change of life. The fact casts some light on what living in Adland is these days all about.

Charles Barker and Sons, the second oldest ad agency in the country, was founded in 1812. In recent years it has developed into a group of agencies, including Charles Barker Advertising, which numbers British Leyland, Nabisco and Trust Houses Forte among its clients, and Charles Barker City, which specialises in financial advertising. Last year the group handled altogether more than E22 million of business and ranked seventh in the league table of UK advertising concerns.

If you look at the six above it, as there is no doubt the Barker directors have done, you notice one

characteristic they have in common — all are able to offer clients strong international networks. Four of them — J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy Benson and Mather, McCann-Erickson and Young and Rubicam — are the UK subsidiaries of American agencies which have spread their ten tacles all over the world.

Of the other British-owned two, Masius Wynne-Williams has a close financial association with the American Darcy-MacManus and had established a number of European subsidiaries of its own even before that association came about; Kimpher, a group of agencies, is part of the INU network in which its partners are the American Needham Harper and Steers and the giant French agency Havas, with its string of continental subsidiaries.

Going down the list the story is pretty much the same. Most of the sizeable agencies either are American-owned or have solid links with other agencies in the US or Europe or both. This state of affairs has not come about by accident nor because of the vainglory of business empire-builders, which is not to say that such vainglory is altogether lacking. The truth is that to be a big agency you need big clients, and big clients increasingly operate on an international scale and seek out agencies which can service them in foreign markets or at least advise them on how to break into foreign markets.

Some accounts are handled by the same agency worldwide. A famous example is Esso, which is everywhere advertised by McCann-Erickson. An account which is handled worldwide can, of course, be lost worldwide. Thus when Doyle Dane Eternbach in New York recently lost the Uniroyal tyre business to Ogilvy and Mather, the account switched from one to the other overseas as well.

It doesn't always work that way. An account which is handled perfectly well by an agency in one country will sometimes resist all attempts by a sister agency elsewhere to carry it off. This may be because the client company judges another agency to be better equipped to do the job in the different circumstances of another country. It may be because corn

panies vary greatly in the degree to which they are centralised and local management, if it has the power to do so, likes to make its own decisions. If things were otherwise, Ford car advertising in this country would probably have been in the hands of J. Walter Thompson instead of Collett Dickenson Pearce and the Paris agency Piblicis would never have been hired, again instead of JWT, to sell Gillette razor blades.

On the whole, though, it remains true that an agency without real international facilities is at a disadvantage when competing for clients. In this country the international dimension of advertising has become increasingly important as even smaller manufacturers have started thinking in Common Market terms.

The Barker group's response to this situation has been to do a deal with two other companies, the American N. W. Ayer and the German Hegemann, whereby each retains its autonomy but a new joint holding company has been formed in Holland, which has a minority stake in each of the three founding partners and which will be used by them to acquire a foothold in other countries.

In accordance with this newly acquired international spirit, Charles Barker Advertising (though not the other constituents of the group) has changed its name to Ayer Barker Hegemann. The aim is simply to remind advertisers that the agency's interests do not stop at the white cliffs of Dover. And the best of British luck to it!