BOSTON, May 18—In the late 1990s, Boston-based Cone was one of a handful of out-of-town agencies to establish a presence in New York’s bustling Silicon Alley, providing public relations advice to a host of dot-com start-ups with big ambitions and equally big budgets. But now it’s closing that office—laying off nine, including general manager Susan Pechman—and pursuing growth in other directions with the opening of a Washington, D.C., office that will extend its traditional expertise in cause-related and social marketing.
At the same time, the firm is merging its interactive practice into its marketing public relations and cause branding practices, in a move agency president Carol Cone says is “aimed at leveraging Cone's Internet skills across the agency's entire client base. The Internet is now maturing into an integral part of traditional brand building, as opposed to a separate business. We believe it makes sense to structure our account staff the same way for the benefit of clients.”
As for Washington, Cone believes that her firm can take advantage of the mix of not-for-profit, trade association, government, and association clients in the D.C. market, and has named Denise Keyes, former vice president of marketing for the Points of Light Foundation, as general manager. The office is already working with two clients, with combined revenues of about $1 million, says Cone, and has six employees.
As for the New York office, which will close its doors in June, Cone says the decision to shut down is “part of the bigger picture of what is happening with the economy.” The remaining clients will be serviced out of New York or Washington, and several employees have been given the option to transfer to either office, Cone says.
The agency’s largest remaining Internet client is Monster.com, which is drawing on Cone’s support for its sponsorship of the 2002 and 2004 Olympics. The firm’s consumer marketing group will now handle that work.
Overall, Cone is hopeful that the growth in the firm’s cause-related marketing business—up about 35 percent on the year so far—will compensate for the loss of interactive revenues, although she expects the firm’s fee level to be flat in 2001.
And she says the firm’s acquisition by Omnicom has been helpful in managing through the downturn. “There was never a time when they came to us and told us we had to do something. We went to them and told them what we wanted to do, and they asked us how they could help. It’s great in a situation like this to be able to discuss plans with people who have so much experience working with different companies.” In particular, she says, Omnicom was helpful in securing office space in Washington, where Cone is in the same building as sister company Fleishman-Hillard.