SAN FRANCISCO — Ogilvy PR has launched a division focused on startups, the latest WPP agency to put resources into bringing emerging companies into its portfolio.
Ogilvy’s new offering, Espresso, is headed by its global tech lead Luca Penati. Meanwhile, Hill + Knowlton’s global tech lead Josh Reynolds recently took over as CEO of the firm’s sister tech boutique Blanc & Otus and, in 2011, Burson-Marsteller launched boutique North of Nine with its global tech head Jennifer Graham Clary at the helm.
But unlike North of Nine and Blanc & Otus, Espresso will not have a separate profit-and-loss structure from Ogilvy PR, and will instead, operate as a service within the agency’s tech practice. Given this structure, most Espresso accounts will be serviced by one VP and one account executive from Ogilvy’s tech practice -- with additional resources available when necessary, Penati said.
“We developed this service while talking to a lot of startups and angel investors,” Penati added. “The feedback we got was fantastic and we signed two clients in one week.” Among those are, digital marketing startup SpotRight and digital health accelerator Rock Health that works with Espresso as a partner.
Penati expects enterprise, cloud, mobile and consumer tech to be Espresso’s strong spots. But because Espresso is not a separate entity from Ogilvy, conflicts with existing clients will likely be turned away. The service will be “highly deliverable-oriented” and contracts will start as three-month engagements, Penati said.
Espresso is entering into a PR market crowded with agencies -- from boutiques to large shops -- clamoring for the next big startup, as well as the potential cooling of the tech sector, with VC investments down 7 percent according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The Dell and Cisco layoffs might have an impact on startups, but it’s still a very hot market,” Penati said. “And we’re not interested in having 100s of startups, only a few that are the right ones.”
The San Francisco-based service is launching amid a revamping of Ogilvy’s Western region. Earlier this summer, Dan La Russo took over as the lead of Ogilvy’s Western tech practice. His longtime co-lead SVP Louise Kehoe now focuses on crisis communications within the firm.