John D. Wren
• A range of ad activities and new-business wins kept Omnicom growing, despite the ad-spending slump
• is hands-off approach to flagship agencies has helped them keep their creative focus
PHOTO BY MICHAEL J.N. BOWLES
Like many owners of established marketing companies, Roger E. Winter, CEO of the Promotion Network Inc., had his pick of suitors. So why did he throw his lot in with advertising giant Omnicom Group (OMC ) a month ago? Winter says the allure was simple: "They don't meddle."
Sound like a backhanded compliment? Not to John D. Wren, Omnicom's 49-year-old president and CEO. Since taking over in January, 1997, Wren's game plan has been to build a deep bench of ad agencies, promotional shops, public-relations firms, direct marketers, and branding consultants. He imposes tight financial controls, then lets them pursue their bliss. What he doesn't do: try to convince Omnicom clients to hire sibling units for their other needs.
So far, his plan has worked like a charm. In a sagging ad market, Omnicom's revenues and income both rose 8% in the third quarter, as acquisitions and new-business wins offset client spending declines. Even analysts who tempered their fourth-quarter expectations are still looking for a gain over 2000. Wren's financial discipline paid off during the dot-com bubble. He laid down the law in early 1999: agencies could pursue dot-commers' business as long as they did not lease extra office space to serve it. The result: no big real estate and severance charges, as at some rivals lately. "We want to be in a leadership position," Wren says, "but we'll do it in a prudent way." Who can argue with that these days?