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Failed Ad Merger Shows Don Draper Is Alive and Well

PP's Sorrell Might be Rubbing it in a Little
Martin Sorrell, chief executive officer of WPP Plc, during the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on June 6, 2013. Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

Martin Sorrell might be the happiest man in advertising today.

The merger of his two biggest rivals, Omnicom and Publicis, imploded after months of speculation that something was going wrong with the $35 billion trans-Atlantic deal. Sorrell runs WPP, which will now remain the world's biggest ad agency.

"Sir Martin Sorrell is likely to be adland's happiest man this morning and will be grinning ear to ear for some time to come," said Keith Hunt, a managing partner at M&A adviser Results International. "Sorrell didn't change his strategy when the mega-merger was announced last summer and he is unlikely to change anything much now other than going after staff and clients from both networks."

Sorrell has been making the rounds with reporters, interrupting his famously gruelling travel schedule to hold forth on the failed deal.

"Luckily, it wasn't consummated," Sorrell said in an interview from Beijing today. "The motions were more emotional than rational -- to knock WPP off its perch."

Publicis CEO Maurice Levy, who regularly trades barbs with Sorrell during conferences and investor presentations, said on a conference call today that the two companies got bogged down when the boards disagreed on key management roles and integration decisions.

"Don Draper's not dead," Sorrell said. "Ego and power is still important in our industry."

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