This Indie Agency Sticks It to the Holding Companies by Betting Against Them Financially

Fun stunt from Rethink in Canada

Independent agencies have a lot of pride about not being tethered to the big advertising holding companies, pointing to the freedom that comes from being accountable only to oneself and not a parent company's stock price. 

Now, agency Rethink in Canada is celebrating its independence in a clever and entertaining way—by putting its money where its mouth is. 

In a video that played at Strategy magazine's recent Agency of the Year event, Rethink showed how it decided to bet financially against the holding company—by short-selling their stock. 

Check out the amusing video below: 

A rep at Rethink confirms to Muse that this wasn't just a joke—they actually did bet an undisclosed amount of money for real. 

So, how have the holding companies actually fared on the stock market this year? 

Of the three specifically mentioned in the video—WPP, Publicis and Omnicom—only WPP has had a truly wretched year, due in part to all the drama around longtime CEO Martin Sorrell's exit. WPP's stock was worth around $80 per share for much of 2018 (it hit a high of $102.48 on Feb. 16) but is now worth less than $60 a share. 

Publicis stock is down as well, particularly over the past few months, though not by as much. It's been worth around 52 euros per share lately, down from highs of around 62 euros per share earlier this year. 

Omnicom has fared best of the three in 2018, recovering from a sudden and precipitous drop in stock price in early July to trade at around $75 per share this week. That's higher than most days this year, though it did reach $82 per share on Valentine's Day. 

It's fun to see Rethink so blatantly mocking the holding companies' financials. But remember—you shouldn't actually short-sell stock. It rarely works out for the best.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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