"Emperors of Adland" describes the sweeping changes brought about in the advertising business when, in the mid-1980s, the industry news became mergers and acquisitions rather than new products and creative campaigns. At the center of the book are the financial dealings, executive courtships and cultural clashes that resulted when the big agencies seemed to be simultaneously "coming to the same conclusion: If you can't win new accounts, you have to buy them."
Nancy Millman traces the rise of the British agency, Sachi & Sachi, which was put on the advertising map by the Tory Party account and its successful packaging of Margaret Thatcher. From here the Sachi brothers, Charles and Maurice, set out to challenge and surpass the big American agencies in an acquisitions frenzy that led the company to be dubbed Snatch-It & Snatch-It. Millman, a Chicago Sun Times reporter on the Madison Avenue beat, blends the advertising sense for summing up an idea in a few words with a sense for drama and suspense that make the story read like a novel. As the climactic moment nears in Marion Harper's ruin at a mega-agency, Interpublic, we read: "At precisely 10 o'clock, Harper rose and walked the short distance down the hall to the board room. The other directors were already assembled. A pot of tea with a Limoges cup and saucer were at the head of the table near Harper's oversized, blue leather chair." Only then is the crucial vote taken. The reader occasionally may wonder if some points haven't been glossed over, or some conclusions hastily drawn, but overall, "Emperors of Adland" is a good, swift read.