Aegis chairman John Napier, who became interim CEO in November after Robert Lerwill’s departure, is wasting no time putting on the ad group the kind of imprint that Lerwill himself had resisted so vehemently. Times Online says Napier has enlisted Merrill Lynch for a strategic review of the company, which could lead to the sell-off of its Synovate market research unit. The paper says Lerwill had fought earlier attempts from Napier to break up the company by selling Synovate and by 30-percent shareholder Vincent Bolloré to appoint his own directors to Aegis’ board. Upon replacing Lerwill in November, Napier stressed a priority of “working closely with both (Aegis Media and Synovate) to ensure that we are in the best possible shape to meet the challenging conditions ahead”.
After TNS eventually caved in to WPP’s persistent acquisition chase last year, a review of Aegis could bring Synovate, another market research firm, in to play. Synovate’s products offer pre-testing on ad concepts and surveys on ad effectiveness – but in an ad downturn, do clients want to guarantee what makes for good advertising, or do they simply want to hold on to their pennies?