Exercise caution when trying to cross the pond

It’s no surprise that Addison is setting up in New York (see News, page 3). It isn’t the one-time annual reports specialist’s first foray across the Atlantic, and, as its joint managing director Quentin Anderson says, many global brands are based in the U

It’s no surprise that Addison is setting up in New York (see {storyLink (“DW199908060006”, “Addison close to US tie-up”)}. It isn’t the one-time annual reports specialist’s first foray across the Atlantic, and, as its joint managing director Quentin Anderson says, many global brands are based in the US. If the WPP Group-owned consultancy is to boost its standing as a broad-based brand communication expert, it needs a presence there.

Addison isn’t the only UK group to have followed its fortunes to New York of late. Wolff Olins was the last big one to make the move, balancing the influx to the UK of big US groups such as Interbrand and Interpublic Group’s corporate identity conglomerate Diefenbach Elkins (now FutureBrand), through high-profile acquisitions.

Addison is working on a deal with a local player, but Wolff Olins decided to go it alone, for want of an obvious US partner. By giving Diefenbach Elkins co-founder John Elkins a non-executive job in New York, it smoothed its path into the market. Even so it’s not all plain sailing; it will be an effort to instill the Wolff Olins culture into the US team.

Strains have been put on UK groups which have sold to bigger players. Indeed, Addison’s former managing director Simon Lake left in June, reportedly exhausted after seeing through the WPP deal and then the merger with Sampson Tyrrell Corporate Marketing. He is now believed to be talking about another role within WPP.

It’s been harder than anticipated for Interbrand Newell and Sorrell to blend the cultures of two very different groups following a “quickie” merger in 1997. The teething problems of introducing the FutureBrand name across Diefenbach Elkins’ network will meanwhile tax incoming European director Charles Trevail and his colleagues.

Word is that The Attik is experiencing problems in London, having claimed runaway success in its US offices over the past couple of years (see {storyLink (“DW199908060024”, “Directors switch roles in The Attik’s reshuffle”)}. Could it now be regretting dispersing its founders across the globe at the expense of the UK business?

The only group for which a big shift appears to have been painless is WPP’s global identity business Enterprise IG. But it took two years’ work to seal the deal between the Enterprise offices.

Expansion is key to design gaining greater recognition. But as Eighties imperialists such as the old Michael Peters Group found to their cost, there have to be solid reasons for setting up abroad. The Nineties have shown you have to nurture overseas offices to create a cohesive culture – and that takes time. Addison already knows that.

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