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News Analysis 16 Nov 2020 - 3 min read

Mergers continue: Publicis Groupe integrates Marcel Sydney into Saatchi & Saatchi as MD departs

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

Publicis Groupe continues to consolidate its agencies, fully integrating Marcel Sydney into its larger creative outfit, Saatchi & Saatchi Australia. The move brings an end to the five-year local experiment with the agency, which launched in 2015 under the leadership of former Droga5 boss David Nobay. Agency mergers continue throughout the industry, with WPP announcing last week digital darling AKQA would absorb creative agency whiteGREY.

No more Marcel

Publicis Groupe ANZ has made another move to further streamline its business, as Marcel Sydney is integrated into its larger sister agency Saatchi & Saatchi Australia.

A spokesperson confirmed the decision in a statement to Mi3, stating that the move was designed to "strengthen operational capabilities" for Marcel clients. 

As a result, Marcel Sydney Managing Director, Ryan Bernal has decided to leave Publicis Groupe and "explore new opportunities".

The agency’s remaining staff have joined the Saatchi & Saatchi team and there have been no changes in the day-to-day running of accounts.

“Ryan has decided to leave Publicis Groupe and has an exciting new opportunity that he is about to embark on. On behalf of the Groupe, I would like to thank Ryan for the valuable contribution he has made in our organisation," Anthony Gregorio, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Australia says.

"He is incredibly smart, with a wicked sense of humour and I will personally miss him enormously. We wish him every success in the future.”

Marcel's current client list includes Cerebral Palsy Alliance, Yellow Tail, Ferrero Rocher, Rio Tinto and Nivea and currently employees six staff in its Sydney office, down from a double digit headcount last year.

Mi3 understands that the group had been considering the move for some time. Insiders suggest there had been an unsustainable mix of growing client frustration and a thinning brands portfolio.

The agency has also seen an exodus of executive staff since last year, notably the departure of Marcel Sydney Founder David Nobay and ECD Wesley Hawes.

Nobay had been brought over following the closure of Droga5 Australia in 2015, where he had been creative chairman.

Nobay was also responsible for bringing arguably one of Marcel's largest clients, Tiger Beer, into the agency. The account has since moved within the group and is currently handled by Publicis Singapore.

Dawes exited shortly after, joining CHE Proximity. He departed the agency last month to join Innocean Australia.



The integration of Marcel Sydney into Saatchi & Saatchi is the second major merger for Publicis in 2020, following the recent decision to combine creative agency Mercerbell and digital shop Performics.

Jason Tonelli, who leads the merged Performics Mercerbell, told Mi3 that the decision was in-line with the group's ambitions to drive greater efficiencies, while also addressing growing client demands for further digital integration.

He says the move had already been underway prior to Covid and was not a direct response to any financial or negative business impacts caused by the pandemic.

"We had already pitched together late last year on an account, with the client seeing the value of having creative, digital and data aligned in one agency," Tonelli says.

"There's no doubt the current digital acceleration that has been seen off the back of Covid was an added bonus that proves the decision was the right one, but we have seen an ongoing trend from brands looking to bring their digital media and creative capabilities into one offering."

Tonelli says the merger, much like Marcel and Saatchi, had no impact on staff count. He says the agency is hiring for multiple roles across the business, as it looks to "scale-up quickly" ahead of the new year.

The agency is expecting to find itself on multiple pitches next year, while also looking to expand its capabilities across current clients.

Mercerbell’s clients include American Express, Nestle Purina, Lion beer brands, Pernod Ricard, Qantas and Caltex. Performics works with Lenovo, Toyota, Red Energy, Lumo Energy and

However, Tonelli says it won't be about "pushing clients too hard" on the new offering but having the "right conversations" when necessary.

"We're not going to be about, 'you should consider moving your media here or putting more creative work there', clients can always see right through that and it's not what we are about," Tonelli says.

"There will be those clients though who see an opportunity to drive greater outcomes by having all their agency relationships in one place or are looking to find a new blend of digital, media and creative, that's where we will find our sweet spot."

Tonelli thinks another motivator behind tighter relationships is the growing trend from brands to have the chief technology or chief digital officer work alongside CMOs.

"There's a lot more to the marketing function now and Covid is going to continue to accelerate the bond between a CTO and CMO, that's something we recognised and factored into our merger decision," Tonelli says.

"As those two continue to collaborate around CRM, personalisation, analytics, measurement, acquisition and retention, then we as an agency need to have the right mix of traditional and digital capabilities to match what they are working towards. That's going to be a big trend over the next 12-24 months."


WPP's AKQA play

Publicis is not alone when it comes to consolidation. WPP last week revealed it will merge digital unit AKQA with creative shop whiteGREY.

The two will become AKQA Group, which will have 6,000 people in more than 50 countries and a blue-chip client roster that includes more than half of the Fortune 500’s top 20.

The combined AKQA Group will have capabilities in the media, entertainment and technology sectors as well as packaged goods, healthcare and financial services.

WPP AUNZ has already confirmed that the two agencies will operate in-line with its global structure, with whiteGREY moving into AKQA, which is currently led by APAC boss Brian Vella. Lee Simpson heads up whiteGREY locally.

There has been no announcement on what the future leadership structure will look like for the group in Australia.


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Josh McDonnell

Senior Writer

Market Voice

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