The buy, EPB's 15th in less than two years, is aimed at bulking up EPB's integrated marketing capabilities and comes only days after the privately held agency snatched up Ketchum Advertising, Pittsburgh.
President-CEO Jeb Brown said the purchase will allow the company, as of today renamed EPB Communications, to become less reliant on advertising and more skilled in faster-growing areas of marketing.
"The world is changing. You can't be a one-trick pony anymore. In order to reach audiences, advertising certainly plays a role but by no means is it sufficient," he said. "It is important that you have the critical mass and the scope to provide services to big clients."
Mr. Brown wouldn't disclose the price for New York-based Palmer, the No. 23 media service, which will keep its name and will not relocate to EPB's offices. Palmer has $350 million in billings and counts among its clients Dutch Boy paints, Marine Midland Bank, Siemens Corp. and Church & Dwight Co.
PFIZER LOSS NOT AN ISSUE
Mr. Brown denied that Palmer's December loss of the $200 million Pfizer account to Carat/MBS, New York, played a part in the media shop's putting itself up for sale.
He said EPB Communications' in-house media department would continue to do some buying and planning, adding that no other media acquisitions were in the cards.
He is, however, mulling a handful of other acquisitions by yearend. Although he wouldn't be specific, he suggested management consulting, interactive and other marketing services-type shops are being eyed.
Ketchum's Pittsburgh office was acquired from Omnicom Group and will be renamed Egan/St. James. It will become an EPB Partners unit. The three units of the newly named EPB Communications are ad agency Earle Palmer Brown; EPB Partners; and EPB Interactive, formed to hold Montgomery & Partners, Redding, Pa., acquired in mid-July.
EPB has boosted its billings substantially in the past two years, largely by smaller purchases. At the beginning of this year, billings were $612.5 million, but they now exceed $1 billion.
The ad agency earlier this summer restructured its four offices in Connecticut, New York, Philadelphia and Bethesda, Md., into a non-geographic-specific network, consolidating profit and loss responsibilities into one balance sheet.
Although Mr. Brown said acquisitions will account for about 75% of growth in the near term, new clients have contributed. Since January, the agency has won the American Bankers Association and Advanstar accounts. It also has picked up business from marketers such as American Isuzu Motors' commercial van division,