Omnicom's Wren Frustrated By Congressional Action

John Wren

Surely unintentionally, Omnicom CEO John Wren offered up a curious paradox Tuesday. On an earnings call, he repeatedly cited high unemployment as a barrier to growth at the holding company. Yet even as Congress moved to extend jobless benefits for unemployed Americans, he suggested that the recent activist Congress may be too active. 

Wren did not mention the move to address unemployment and appeared to be referring to other issues as he pined for Congress to flee the Potomac soon.

He did not elaborate on whether he was frustrated by financial reform, regulations on the ad industry or other activity -- but said he spoke only for himself.

"I wish Congress would go on recess and stop doing things," Wren said, "because I think we'd all benefit from a quiet period in the United States -- but that's a personal wish."

Emails seeking comment from Omnicom were not immediately returned.

Earlier on the call, Wren said that Omnicom clients are showing signs of spending more, a reversal of the cost-cutting trend over the last year and a half. But with so many Americans out of work, unemployment and its effect on consumer spending continues to be a point of concern for the last half of 2010.

"We'll remain somewhat cautious with unemployment as high as it is and act accordingly," he said. "But clients ... after having been forced to focus, as we were, on costs for about 18 months are now turning toward the top line and increasingly trying to drive growth."

Omnicom said in the April-June period, organic growth in the U.S. was up 8.2% -- even with the loss of the Chrysler business, which Barclays Capital said topped analyst estimates. Domestic revenue jumped 7.4% to $1.64 billion.

Worldwide profit was up 4.2%, to $243 million. Referring again to marketers, Wren said that in 2009 "the focus was [on] survival; today it's growth."

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