"We're not looking to build a legacy agency business," - Dentsu Aegis CEO Jerry Buhlmann on the merger & digital advertising

Dentsu Aegis chief executive Jerry Buhlman is an unexpectedly calm figure when The Drum meets up with him in the middle of Europe's largest tech conference, Dmexco. Having spent the last 18 months driving the resulting organisation out of the largest advertising deal in history, valued at £3.2bn, Jerry Buhlmann could be forgiven for being either tense or fatigued.

Perhaps he is, but his energy and enthusiasm for the job at hand, which sees him lead a global company of 36,000 employees, and his pride in how successful he says the deal from last summer has gone, evokes an entrepreneur who appreciates the opportunity he has been handed.

He claims that the synergy in both companies having strength in their native regions, now combined, has opened up doors for the new entity and made it competitive with the larger marketing services agency networks.

"The focus was about getting revenue synergies, not about cost synergies" he explains when asked what had ensured the success of the deal. "Although Dentsu paid a good price for the business, it didn't seek any cost synergies, so there were zero redundancies and the business, Dentsu Aegis Network, is headquartered out of London so that gives a lot of continuity to staff and a lot of reassurance that there would be no redundancies whatsoever."

Buhlmann has often been asked about any potential culture clash, however he claims that such international issues are not unique to Japan and London, citing the difference between French and English cultures as another example that has been overcome.

"It's not actually the cultures that are the challenge. It's the values. Their values are very similar to the values we have in Aegis. The business launched as one on 1 January 2014 and so far, during the first half of this year, we have had 9 per cent organic growth, more than double the industry average at the moment. So you have got continuity of investment and acquisitions, our performance in organic growth, stability in the business and a very successful integration, the largest in history of advertising."

He adds that the key to ensuring the smoothness in the transition for the companies was that all stakeholders were looked after and managed well in order that the business itself was not negatively impacted by unrest.

"A third of our business is Asia, a third is Europe and a third is in the Americas where we now have a billion dollar revenue business," he continues to explain as we discuss the differences between the organisation and its competitors. "We have that great split. We have had a lot of success with global clients in the last few years with General Motors, Microsoft, MasterCard and developing the business with Procter & Gamble and Diageo. We have a lot of momentum in terms of our clients."

He continues to describe the potential for learning from western clients and Japanese- based clients as "huge" especially as Japan continues to be the third biggest marketplace.

"We're the only network that is actually operating there with a global footprint. There's a huge capability there," Buhlmann states proudly before highlighting the work of Aegis agencies such as iProspect, McGarry Bowen and Isobar in driving international business.

"From a business point of view we have a growth opportunity in a rapidly changing market and we are really well equipped to what that market is and we are not stuck with lots of legacy agencies that are bolted together. We're not that type of holding company."

We meet on the day that Dentsu Aegis media agency, Carat has forecast a 16 per cent growth in digital advertising spend is set to grow by 16.1 per cent this year and account for a fifth of all ad spend in total. With the group able to account for 42 per cent of its total revenue stemming from digital, Buhlmann is confident that the future looks to be an even brighter one however he is emphatic that driving growth for clients is the core focus of the business.

"It's just a big playground and we are in there trying to add value to our clients and we can do that," he later muses, citing the rate of change in social, mobile, video and data collection within the industry as areas that Dentsu Aegis will grow 'fourfold' over the next five years.

"That isn't evolutionary, it's revolutionary. If you look back in 15/20 years’ time, this will be a revolutionary stage of the emergence of a converging market. It's not commoditisable, there are lots of opportunities and it’s a very exciting time to be in our business, whether the market, per se is relatively static from an economic point of view, there is so much dynamic change and there are masses of opportunity so I'm not pessimistic about Europe. We are growing very well in Europe at the moment despite the fact that you have economic growth in the Eurozone of less than 1 per cent, which is a huge challenge because at that level unemployment might go down."

Eventually conversation turns to the failed merger between Publicis and Omnicom, which he claims failed due to "a lack of integrity" within the deal and he is only too happy to claim that is also offered positives to rival networks, not least Dentsu Aegis.

"We saw a huge opportunity with them being very distracted but it meant that we needed to be very clear about what our how proposition was."

The company's own merger and acquisition strategy, he intimates strongly, will continue to focus on middle to smaller sized agencies, although he doesn't rule out any large-scale deal, it seems there is nothing imminent on the cards.

"We're not looking to build a legacy agency business," he underlines.

Finally, asked what he has been most proud of so far in the role of chief executive, Buhlmann returns to his initial point on how smoothly the process has gone.

"We have a fantastic larger business now that is performing really well. Our people are happy, and for a year and a half on for people to be so happy in an environment that is positive, performance focused, successful and is allowing us to invest in our business, I am really proud of that fact and that position because you don't know how acquisitions are going to turn out, particularly one of this scale. That is really down to our people who have taken a very positive approach to the opportunity of the merger and are really capturing those opportunities and it's been a fantastic story that I'm really happy with."

Dentsu Aegis is clearly only going to continue to grow and become more of a force to be reckoned with by the larger, more established networks for years to come.

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