WPP PR agency Cohn & Wolfe doesn't want to stop at selling mobile ideas to clients, but actual mobile content creation and ad buying is not PR's strong suit. To try to remedy that, Cohn & Wolfe is forming a joint venture called ME-24 with sibling mobile shop Joule.
"Multiscreen behavior has exploded. Clients want mobile embedded in strategy," said Chad Latz, president at the digital innovation group at Cohn & Wolfe. "Whether they allow the PR agency to be the one to deliver has always been a matter of credibility."
The new group comprises more than 100 people from both organizations in the U.S., Europe and Asia. It focuses on three service areas: mobile engagement and business strategy; campaign development and activation; and product development focused on proprietary technology and apps.
The two shops will share earnings based on the amount of staffers and resources that each shop allocates to a particular project. Structurally, they'll work from the own offices for now.
While Cohn & Wolfe might not have shied away from incorporating mobile strategies in larger integrated plans for clients, Joule fills a void with technology and production capabilities in areas such as responsive content, complex site design and apps.
"It gives us more presence in more markets. And more specifically, strategy, content, user experience and delivery," said Mr. Latz. "We're bringing mobile technology and the expertise on the technical and design implementation that we weren't necessarily bringing to the table before."
Mobile data also plays a growing role in effective in- and out-of-home marketing, which would lend PR more credibility on the media buying front. PR shops have dabbled in media buying for a few years, viewing paid media as a way to boost campaigns that begin with social media or digital content.
For Joule, it means a partner with expertise in crafting messages and an integrated marketing focus, said Michael Lieberman, North American CEO of Joule. "We're able to pair [our] creative production, years of experience in mobile and an understanding of what makes for the best consumer experience on a device with the integrated communications approach Cohn & Wolfe has."
$137.8B U.S. ad spend for top 200 advertisers
Cohn & Wolfe has named Kristine Newman to lead the new mobile group as senior VP of mobile engagement. She'll oversee the group and help develop mobile engagement curriculum for the shop's 1100 staffers. Most recently, Ms. Newman was an independent consultant working with clients such as the Motion Picture Association of America, the Direct Marketing Association and Taboola. She's also the president of Women in Wireless, a group that promotes female leaders in digital industries. She'll report to Mr. Latz and Mr. Lieberman.
From a new business standpoint, ME-24 is already working. The PR shop has pitched five pieces of business with new partner Joule and already won four, said the companies, declining to name the clients.
"We're not looking at mobile as an isolated thing," said Mr. Latz. "We're basically bringing them to the table on everything ... To think mobile won't have to be intimate part of [of a bigger brand] solution is shortsighted."
Mr. Lieberman added that the groups could even cohabitate in some markets where they share business.
Mr. Latz met Rupert Day, the CEO of out-of-home network and Joule parent group Tenth Avenue, at a WPP strategy summit last September. "We had a shared philosophy and belief around building integrated conversations between brands and consumers," said Mr. Latz. "The relationship evolved."
One common goal is also to capture data from mobile users and use it to glean consumer insights or enhance engagement, said Mr. Latz. It's in line with Cohn & Wolfe's WPP Data Alliance membership, which recently helped the PR shop broker relationships with other agencies and ultimately greater access to data resources.