NEW YORK — WPP has acquired digital content shop Group SJR with plans to fold the agency into Hill + Knowlton Strategies.
Group SJR is a $13.4 million firm with 50 people across its New York and Los Angeles offices servicing high-profile clients like the Motion Picture Association of America, TED, GE, Xerox and Dell. The shop was founded in 2004 around the now-ubiquitous concept of content marketing.
The deal gives Group SJR global clout, while bolstering H+K’s game in the digital and content arena. SJR will retain its branding and operate independently as an H+K company.
SJR’s managing partner Alexander Jutkowitz will assume the title of vice chairman and chief global strategist at H+K reporting into global CEO Jack Martin and operating as a liaison between the two firms, alongside H+K’s digital SVP Gary Goldhammer. The remainder of SJR’s leadership - including co-founder Mitch Stoller -- will remain intact.
“We’re responding to the changing needs of the marketplace and of our clients,” Andy Weitz, US president of H+K, told the Holmes Report. “And SJR has matured and is looking for a global platform to accelerate growth.”
Weitz envisions the deal will help H+K compete head-on with boutiques, blending “our ability to be specialists but with scalability.” He does not expect any layoffs or leadership changes as part of the acquisition.
H+K is considered the world’s sixth largest PR firm with approximately $450 million in revenues. In recent years it has built its reputation around public affairs with the acquisition of Public Strategies in 2010, as well as research and corporate reputation.
Weitz adds, SJR’s creative approach to content complements H+K's existing portfolio of tools that includes digital storytelling platform “Layered Narrative,” online crisis simulator “Flight School” and the upcoming StoryPlanner tool for content distribution.
When asked about SJR’s philosophy towards content, Jutkowitz said the firm's focus hasn’t been on whether content is paid, earned, owned, shared or syndicated.
“It’s about quality - if it’s quality, it will get picked up,” he said. About 90 percent of SJR’s work is based in the US but Jutkowitz says the acquisition enables them to tap into “the tremendous growth” opportunities globally.
“We also want to strengthen our public affairs standing” as well as grow its ability to deploy technology against marketing trends and add more SEO and optimization services into its offering, he added.
In 2012, WPP's digital revenues were more than $5 billion in 2012 and represented 33 percent of total revenues of $16.5 billion. The group is targeting that digital will make up about 40 percent of revenues in the next five years. Public relations and public affairs were $1.5 billion in 2012 and represented 9 percent of total revenues.