LAS VEGAS AGENCY R&R MERGES WITH TWO LOCAL SHOPS

Created 'What Happens Here, Stays Here' Campaign

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Three Las Vegas marketing communications firms, including R&R Partners, the shop behind the oft-quoted "What Happens Here, Stays Here" ad campaign, have announced plans to merge effective Jan. 1.

R&R Partners, a full-service advertising,

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public relations and public affairs firm, will combine with two smaller agencies, Brown & Partners Advertising, Public Relations and Public Affairs and political consultant Pete Ernaut. The new entity, which will keep the R&R Partners name, will have billings of $226 million and 242 employees.

Terms not disclosed
Financial terms of the deal among the privately held shops were not disclosed. R&R was the larger of the three agencies, with $180 million in billings.

Billy Vassiliadis will remain CEO of the new R&R Partners, while Mark E. Brown, president of Brown & Partners, becomes president. Mary Ann Mele, who had been R&R's president, remains chief strategic officer. Mr. Ernaut will become president of R&R Partner's public affairs division, based in Reno.

Brown & Partners will operate as a separate unit of R&R Partners and will be lead by Chuck Johnston, formerly the agency's managing partner.

Hoping for bigger accounts
Executives at the shops hope the merged company will give them the opportunity to parlay its success with "What Happens Here, Stays Here" with regional and national marketers.

"This merger will further strengthen R&R Partners' position as one of the nation’s top independent advertising, public relations and government affairs firms," Mr. Brown said in a statement.

Mr. Vassiliadis said the new operation will focus on the growth of its Phoenix office, as well as look to acquire more tourism and transportation accounts. The agency's fourth office is in Salt Lake City.

Keeping key accounts
At the same time, the merger may be part of an effort to help insure the shop holds onto what will become one of the major ad accounts in the gambling world. Brown & Partners' clients include the MGM-Mirage's Bellagio and Treasure Island casinos on the Vegas strip, while R&R handles the Mandalay Bay casino-resort. MGM-Mirage and Mandalay Bay have announced plans to merge.

The agency merger also brings an interesting twist to the Nevada political scene. Mr. Vassiliadis is a die-hard Democrat, while Mr. Ernaut has been working to elect some of the state's top Republicans.

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