China's largest advertising conglomerate has dumped WPP Group in favor of arch rival and global marketing services sector leader Omnicom Group.
The unexpected decision by Citic and its Beijing Guoan Advertising arm to sever relations with WPP's Grey Global Group after fourteen years will double the size of Omnicom's DDB Worldwide network in China both by revenue and staff numbers.
The new venture, to be known as DDB Guoan Communications, will offer Omnicom a much-needed footing in China, raise its profile in Beijing and bring in local expertise. Comments Asia-Pacific chairman/ceo Michael Birkin: "This alliance will provide unparalleled reach in China."
The abandoned Grey is putting a brave face on the situation. Avers Mike Amour, Asia-Pacific chairman/ceo: "As with many joint ventures, Guoan has been a relatively silent partner, so there will be little change in our day-to-day business."
The falling out will come as a particular blow to WPP's ceo Sir Martin Sorrell, who has long championed China's importance in the London-headquartered titan's future development plans.
Citic's vice chairman, Yan Gang, claims the urbane Sorrell had treated him "very rudely" during an April meeting in London to discuss management problems at the joint venture.
Sorrell is said to have a different version of events but declined to comment.
Data sourced from AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff