Entertainment-PR Giants BNC, PMK to Merge Operations

Combined Client Roster Could Create More Sponsorship, Marketing Opportunities for Blue-Chip Brands and Top Talent

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Eight months after William Morris and Endeavor joined forces to form an uber-talent agency, Hollywood is welcoming another mega-merger, this time on the public-relations front.

Chris Robichaud
Chris Robichaud
PR and entertainment-marketing firms BNC and PMK made official their plans to merge operations, effective Jan. 1, to form PMK-BNC. The three founders of PMK's sibling agency HBH, Stephen Huvane, Robin Baum and Simon Halls, and several other HBH veterans are departing to form their own PR firm, Slate PR, as reported by TheWrap.com last week.

But what remains of the combined Interpublic Group of Cos. agencies' client roster is a veritable who's who of actors, musicians and brands. On the talent front: Cameron Diaz, Kate Hudson, Miley Cyrus, Amy Poehler, Jessica Alba, Rosie O'Donnell, Neil Patrick Harris and Tracy Morgan, as well as showrunners Mark Burnett ("Survivor") and Shonda Rhimes ("Grey's Anatomy") and PR oversight of the Emmys, Tonys and Country Music Awards. The music roster includes Will.i.am of the Black Eye Peas, Shakira, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Dixie Chicks and Tom Petty. Brands include T-Mobile, Nintendo, Samsung, American Express, Target, Hasbro, Netflix and MAC Cosmetics, among others.

Cindi Berger
Cindi Berger
The agencies will maintain offices in New York and Los Angeles, managed by three CEOs: BNC's chairman-CEO, Michael Nyman, and president-chief operating officer Chris Robichaud, as well as PMK/HBH co-CEO Cindi Berger. The new company will have a staff of roughly 150 employees, two-thirds of whom are based in Los Angeles. Mr. Robichaud didn't expect the headcount to change much in the short-term due to the lack of overlap between the two companies.

Some of the biggest potential synergies between PMK and BNC's respective talent and brand clients could take the form of concert-tour sponsorships, which Mr. Nyman alluded to in an interview.

Added Mr. Robichaud: "No matter what side of the talent equation you're on -- talent, film, TV, music or anything in the entertainment world -- or if you're on the corporate side from a brand perspective, to have this full solution under one roof allows us to be a lot more nimble and collaborative."

The disintermediation between marketers and their many ad agency partners is a worrisome trend that once again reared its head for Madison Avenue as witnessed in recent major account reviews for Pepsi, Unilever and Wrigley that effectively put into play many of those blue-chip brands' relationships with top-tiered digital agencies. A PMK-BNC merger could theoretically cut out more of PMK-BNC's competitors' talent and brand clients when it comes time for major endorsement and sponsorship deals, giving, say, T-Mobile and American Express first crack at concert tours for Miley Cyrus or Shakira, for example.

Michael Nyman
Michael Nyman
That won't always be the case, however. "We need to do what's best for the brand. We need to be able to match the best talent up in different ways to make sure whatever the brand invests in is the strongest return on investment," Mr. Robichaud said.

Ms. Berger would also like to see the agency take a leadership stance on measurement of PR campaigns' effectiveness. "We want to make sure it's not just about a bunch of sizzle and what we're doing on the side. There's a lot of ways you can trace things back that will help make it so the brands know this is something they want to invest in," she said.

Mr. Robichaud argued that the agency's role has taken on more of a marketing focus than ever. "If you look at the talent side and how digital has changed the landscape, a personal publicist really is the CMO of whatever talent they're working with. You're managing an image in so many different ways now."

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