Business Comment: Go-it alone Cordiant rediscovers an old truth

How Lord Saatchi must be smiling to himself - that is if he has time to in between trips to Conservative Party Central Office, where he is advising the Prime Minister on election strategy and advertising. With its demerger announcement yesterday, Cordiant, Maurice Saatchi's former company, has all but run up the white flag, in effect admitting that it is unequal to the task of regrouping and reinventing itself after the traumas of the last five years.

This is strongly denied by the present Cordiant chairman, Charlie Scott, who rightly points out that the group is achieving the targets it set itself at the time of its 1995 rights issue. None the less, it is hard to avoid the comparison with WPP, which after a period of vaulting ambition and hubris not dissimilar to that of the former Saatchi & Saatchi suffered the same near-nemesis. Unlike Lord Saatchi, however, its creator and guiding light, Martin Sorrell, managed to survive, if only by the skin of his teeth, and he has restored the advertising giant to rude health.

The same cannot be said of Cordiant, which has struggled to stay afloat since Lord Saatchi deserted ship ,taking some of the company's best talent with him. Now it seems to be throwing in the towel altogether, the attempt to find a cohesive approach and culture in effect abandoned for good.

Lord Saatchi may be able to take some satisfaction in what has happened, but there should in fact be no shame or criticism attached to what Cordiant is doing. This is the company's way of unburdening itself of its past, of finally drawing a line in the sand and putting its businesses on the right footing for the future.

Demergers most often take place in companies with starkly different businesses. It is unusual to see a company all of whose interests are in the same business splitting itself in two. But advertising is different, a people business made up of big egos and volatile temperaments encompassing a wide number of successful formulas, most of which don't mix terribly well.

In fact there are few advertising businesses organised as holding companies that manage to achieve a unified approach and culture. Certainly there is little value the holding company structure can add to the work its agencies are already doing on behalf of clients. In any case, Saatchi & Saatchi, Bates and Zenith always were very different sorts of company and they never lived happily together. Bates has found the association with Saatchi's positively restrictive, raising conflicts of interest that prevent it competing for an estimated 10 per cent of the world advertising market.

There is every reason to believe both Bates and Saatchi's will function better alone than together. But those who think it will also make them obvious takeover targets have perhaps forgotten the lessons of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The City may have forgiven Martin Sorrell for the spectacular loss of shareholder value he oversaw in that period, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to support another bout of empire-building in the advertising industry as we approach the millennium. Advertising may be one of those businesses where to be small is to be beautiful.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Business Anaylst

£60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

Senior Project Manager

£60000 - £90000 per annum + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Global leading Energy Tra...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Oil & Energy Business Anaylst

£45000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Harrington Sta...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment