Kaplan Thaler Group Merges With Sibling Shop Publicis, New York

New Unit Will Be Called Publicis Kaplan Thaler

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Kaplan Thaler Group is merging with sibling agency Publicis, New York.

The two offices will move into a single Big Apple location in early 2013 and going forward will be called Publicis Kaplan Thaler.

Susan Gianinno, chairman-CEO of the U.S. operations of Publicis Worldwide -- which is owned by the third-biggest holding company in the world, Paris-based Publicis Groupe -- told Ad Age that the "the topic of bringing together the two organizations has come up over the years," but it was only in the past couple of months that any serious discussions about such a deal were pursued. "You can't just sit there, you have to say what do you need? We need more distinctiveness and need to stand out, and how do we give [Publicis] a little more personality and more difference. . . The other thing has been how do we increase our scale in New York?"

Kaplan Thaler was founded in 1997 by Linda Kaplan Thaler, who had earned a name in the business through her work at JWT and Wells Rich Greene. Ms. Kaplan Thaler is often associated with her talent for jingle-writing. For years, Ms. Kaplan Thaler has worked with a partner, Robin Koval. Together, they've written books about the power of happiness in business and other topics. It's not the first merger for Kaplan Thaler, which contains the remnants of N.W. Ayer & Partners, an oldline agency founded in 1869 that was merged into Kaplan Thaler in April 2002 by Bcom3 Group, its parent at the time. Publicis bought Bcom3 later in 2002.

Last year was a good one for Kaplan Thaler financially; it grew by 10%, according to the Ad Age Datacenter, from $55 million to $60.5 million.

One person who won't be joining the new Publicis Kaplan Thaler? Former Johnson & Johnson marketer Joe McCarthy, who in 2008 joined the agency as its New York CEO. The agency would only say that he is exploring other opportunities.

Ms. Gianinno insisted that the leadership of the two agencies would remain ptherwise intact, with Publicis Kaplan Thaler being led by Ms. Kaplan Thaler as chairman and Ms. Koval as CEO. Rob Feakins, president and chief creative officer for Publicis New York, will continue in that role and lead creative for the combined shop.

While the two agencies share some big clients, such as Procter & Gamble and Merck, there are a couple of potential conflicts. One that especially jumps out is U.S. Bank, a client of Kaplan Thaler's, which is in direct conflict with a longtime Publicis client, Citigroup.

Ms. Gianinno said in the few cases where there could be cause for concern, they have spoken to the marketers about "a way to structure the business so we can avoid any possibility for conflict." Reading between the lines, that suggests the formation of some agency-with-an-agency style shops.

Other big clients that Kaplan Thaler will be bringing to Publicis include Wendy's and Aflac.

In a statement, Publicis Groupe Chief Operating Officer and Executive Chairman of Publicis Worldwide Jean-Yves Naouri said: "New York is the largest communications community in the world. We are deeply committed to building a stronger base of operations in this market -- one that attracts and retains the best talent in the world to build our clients' brands."

The pace of consolidation continues at breakneck speed, as just earlier today the merger of two major holding companies, Dentsu and Aegis, was announced. Just a few weeks earlier, WPP announced its acqusition of digital agency network AKQA, while digital agency LBi is also in talks with Omnicom Group.

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