Preston states Blue 449 and Spark merger 'not a cost saving exercise'

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 6 March 2019
John Preston

Publicis Media will merge its media agencies Blue 449 and Spark Foundry, with the Blue 449 name ceasing to exist in the Australian market.

Current Publicis Media ANZ chairman and founder of Blue 449 John Preston will oversee the merger, working closely with the executive leadership to "ensure a smooth transition".

Speaking to AdNews, Preston states the move is" by no means a cost-saving measure" and that the decision was based on strategic growth for both businesses.

He added that because there are no major staff changes occurring as a result of the merger, the business will operate as "business as usual", with clients being serviced by their current teams.

Leading the new Australian entity will be Spark Foundry’s current CEO Sue Squillace; supported by COO Duncan Parfitt, who moves from his role as MD of Blue 449, and Blue 449’s CFO Jeff Ewing completing the executive leadership team.

"We don't have to demonstrate savings to the business, this is a strategic play and that's because the strength of the brands in their own right are very strong locally."

Preston says Publicis Media will continue to support the current brand portfolio of Zenith, Starcom and Performics while providing Spark a bigger opportunity to take on larger scale clients from a global and domestic point of view.

When Match originally merged into Blue 449, Preston said the intention was to join a "global family" and grow the business rapidly, however, admitted the business has failed to accelerate as quickly as previously thought.

When the opportunity for Blue 449 to become part of Spark Foundry arose, he recognised that it would be the next best "evolutionary step" for the Blue 449 brand in Australia.

The new Spark Foundry Australia will have 185 people working across its three existing offices in Sydney and Melbourne, and in Sydney will come together in one location with Publicis Groupe’s move to Pyrmont scheduled for early 2020.

“I am really excited to have the opportunity to lead this newly-formed strategic alignment. This evolution of Spark Foundry will deliver our people and clients a brand with greater scale, greater market impact and a greater connected global network," Squillace said.

Spark Foundry recently picked up the $10 million Peters Ice Cream account and the global media account for Marriott.

Blue 449 accounts include Pernod Ricard, National Breast Cancer Foundation and Southern Cross Travel Insurance.

Globally, Phil Georgiadis, global chairman of Blue 449 and Publicis Media UK, has decided to leave the company, having co-founded Blue 449 (formerly Walker Media) in the UK in 1998.

Chris Boothe, Spark Foundry’s global brand president will lead the expanded global network as a result.

Due to the nature of the French, US and UK markets, both Spark Foundry and the Blue 449 brands will be retained and co-operate closely in these markets, with Blue 449 predominantly servicing domestic clients and Spark Foundry focusing on global clients.

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