Claire Beale on advertising

With Bolloré's sabre-rattling, the status quo looks shakier than ever

Advertising might be a business full of colourful creative characters, but it's the industry's top dogs who often provide the most sport.

There are few adland pursuits as entertaining as watching the big stags locking horns. Not just because in the intensely competitive global ad business, rivalry is fierce. But also because such deadly ambition is often tinged with a cocky mischievousness that can make the rivalry seem like an amusing exercise in corporate willy-waving.

The latest gauntlet has come down from Vincent Bolloré, a man whose bank balance knows no bounds. Bolloré runs the faltering French advertising group Havas. With Havas just unveiling less-than-glittering profits, you might think Bolloré has more important things on his mind than yanking the chain of a rival.

Not so. In a cunning PR offensive that helped distract observers from the nub of the Havas results (profits down 38 per cent, with operating margins down to 7.7 per cent from 10.8 per cent), Bolloré last week decided to stir things up over at rival Aegis.

Bolloré wants representation on the Aegis board, which is not as impertinent as it might appear. Bolloré is, in fact, a pretty significant shareholder in Aegis (he owns 29 per cent). But Aegis argues that as the manager of a rival communications group, Bolloré cannot be privy to sensitive commercial information. After all, this is not a business of gentlemanly discretion.

Bolloré has been shunned by Aegis once before. But, in the spirit of the sport, he is undeterred and returned last week for round two. In a letter to Aegis, he requested another meeting with shareholders to make his case. And so Aegis must now call an EGM and boss Robert Lerwill must again go in to battle for the support of his board against Bolloré. In typically needling style, Bolloré described his interest in Aegis as "a long love affair", which will have got some Aegis shareholders frothing.

You can imagine how distracting all this is for Aegis and how much Bolloré must enjoy watching them squirm. And then, in the wings, WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell will be watching and no doubt savouring the spectacle. Sorrell and Bolloré talk, and are even said to have hatched a plan, should Bolloré make a full bid for Aegis, which would see WPP swoop on its Synovate market research division. And if Sorrell can throw Aegis into a spin with a bit of spin of his own, he will.

As an independent media and market research group, Aegis is an anomaly among the marketing services holding companies and, with last week's £400m General Motors media coup under its belt, an attractive target. Lerwill says his priority (beyond the usual "doing our best for our clients" stuff) is maximising shareholder value. It may well be that selling up is the best way to achieve that.

But the Aegis/Bolloré clash is simply the latest move in the dance of the adland CEOs that will inevitably see the curtain fall on the current advertising world order. Whether French companies Publicis and Havas will ally, whether Havas will snare Aegis (my money's on both of these), whether WPP will make a counter bid, whether Interpublic Group will implode, one thing's for sure: the clock is ticking on the status quo. And there's plenty more locking horns to be done before this game's all played out.

* TALKING OF the adland stags, few things get advertising's chattering classes chattering as excitedly as the salaries of its senior proponents. Take the e-mail that was sent in heart-stopping error by a PA, announcing to the world some of the management salaries at one top London agency. Turns out the creative director, a man with a creative turkey or two under his belt, is on a cool £450k. Such largesse is not unique, but it has left observers wondering quite how his department's reputation justifies such generosity.

It's small change, though, to some of the industry's top dogs like Sorrell and Lerwill. According to the latest tally of top salaries by Marketing Services Financial Intelligence, Sir Martin Sorrell is way ahead in the pay stakes. Few would question the man's worth but still, an £859,000 basic and a £1.6m bonus make for eye-watering reading. Poor Robert Lerwill had to make do with a £548,000 basic and £519,000 bonus.

The ad industry is constantly bemoaning its dearth of talent and the difficulty of attracting the best graduates. The IPA could do worse than run a campaign in universities quoting some of these salaries. Best not to use any pics, though.

* THE AD business loves a new consumer phenomenon that it can use to pep up its PowerPoint presentations and persuade clients that it has its collective finger on the pulse of the nation's obsessions. So all over town "YouTube", "MySpace" and "Second Life" are being artfully-casually dropped into conversations about brand communications strategy.

Not everybody working in advertising actually knows what these things are, of course. There's one creative director of a particularly large ad agency who hasn't even mastered e-mail yet. Actually, there's probably more than one. To a fair proportion of the communications industry, Second Life is literally, metaphorically and every which way another world.

Not so over at Leo Burnett. Following hot on the heels of Adidas, which recently became one of the first global brands to create a presence in the online virtual reality world, Leo Burnett has now set up shop in Second Life with a virtual agency - the Leo Ideas Hub.

The idea is to create a global creative community where creative ideas can be shared and briefs honed. It's a neat alternative to the usual company intranet and gives Burnett the option to leverage any commercial opportunities that might come out of the Second Life economy.

But, much, much more than that, it's a good exercise in public relations. Several ad agencies in town have been scrambling to get their own virtual agency up and running, thereby polishing their cool, cutting-edge credentials. That the otherwise rather grey and unexciting Leo Burnett should beat them to it must be deeply frustrating. The rather cooler Bartle Bogle Hegarty was left trailing in the wake when it unveiled its own Second Life virtual agency a few days later.

The agencies must proceed with extreme caution, though. Like so many community sites on the web, Second Life is still relatively virgin territory for brands, and overt consumerism will be quickly stamped on. So don't expect a new breed of Boss-besuited, Blackberry-wielding avatars quite yet. Meanwhile, suggestions that the Burnett initiative is merely a desperate ploy to escape from the realities of the agency's dire Kensington Village headquarters have been vigorously denied.

BEALE'S BEST IN SHOW

A new campaign for mobile phone company 3 is something to savour... again and again and again. Really, you need to. I mean, what the hell is going on? From musical jellyfish to singing cherries and orgasmic housewives, the 3 œuvre is advertising acid.

So you mostly can't tell what it's all about - so what? This is twisted creative genius at work: logic go hang. And, best of all, the 3 ads hit you right between the eyes while rivals receded into bland sameyness. Actually, this latest - from WCRS - is not quite so intriguingly bizarre as its predecessors, which is a shame. But it's mesmerising and really quite beautiful.

You know it's a 3 ad from the off. There's this boy with an enormous trout pout and a girl with a particularly impressive wrist action, which is put to good use as the pair ping paper-plane notes back and forth across the world's largest lecture theatre with awesome speed and accuracy. It's all lush candy colours and a sort of retro-cool quirkyness. Amid the numbing blandness that characterises mobile phone advertising, 3 is a beacon of brilliance. This time round I even managed to work out what it was trying to sell me (e-mail and MSN messaging). Which helps if you're trying to sell. Before, the 3 ads have been industry darlings but perhaps not customer calls-to-action. Now, with subscriber churn rates at 3 recently running at 50 per cent a year, these ads need to start working. Quick.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Arts and Entertainment
Pink Floyd on stage at Live 8 in 2005. From left to right: David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright
music New album The Endless River set to overtake boyband for most pre-ordered of all-time
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 Media

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Business Development Manager

£25000 - £27000 per annum + Bonus: Sauce Recruitment: Within your role as Busi...

IT Graduate

£15 - 20k: Guru Careers: We are looking for an eager IT Graduate / Technology ...

Ad Director / Sales Director

£55 - 65k + 25% Y1 OTE + Fantastic Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an e...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink