Holding Companies Alter Their Marketing Mix, Go On PR Buying Spree

Independent PR firms looking to cash out may want to knock on a few doors at the major ad holding companies, which have gone on a global buying spree for PR shops in recent weeks.

The latest example was confirmation Thursday by Paris-based Publicis Groupe. It has purchased Poland’s largest independent PR firm, Ciszewski, which specializes in several areas, including technology PR, financial communications and consumer and sports marketing. The agency will be overseen by the holding company’s PR agency network MSLGroup.

Not to be outdone, WPP has acquired two PR specialists this week, including a majority stake in Impactasia, with offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, and The Glover Park Group in Washington, D.C. The Impactasia stake was taken through WPP PR company Cohn & Wolfe.

Also, Havas has taken a majority stake in Singapore-based Siren-Communication that specializes in social media, digital PR and content generation. Havas said the firm, to be known as Euro RSCG Siren, will become part of the Euro RSCG PR network.



And two weeks ago, Omnicom Group purchased Marina Maher Communications, the New York-based PR firm that specializes in marketing to women. The shop will be housed under Omnicom’s Diversified Agency Services group, but remain an independent agency run by Maher. It will not be folded into one of the group’s existing PR networks, such as Ketchum or Porter Novelli.

Last month, MDC made its first overseas expansion move with the purchase of UK-based Epoch PR through its PR subsidiary Kwittken & Co.

The holding companies have been in the PR business for some time as they have expanded from advertising to the broader strategic and marketing and communications domain. WPP says that 10% of its revenue is now accounted for by its PR group, which includes Hill & Knowlton, Ogilvy Public Relations, and Burson-Marsteller, among others. 

With the emergence of digital media, roles between advertising and PR shops are blurring. Both sectors, for example, aggressively pursue clients seeking social media strategies. 

In a guest column posted on the PR Week site Oct. 3, Miles Nadal, CEO of MDC Parnters, said that PR is becoming increasingly vital to the marketing communications mix. While the discipline once focused on getting reporters to say good things about clients, today, he added: “PR is about managing a dialogue -- customers, businesses, and influencers discussing the merits of a product, the economics of a big company initiative, or why a company failed in some way, all on the same platform with equal voices.”

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