PALO ALTO—A week after this website reported that Hewlett-Packard had narrowed its agency search to three finalists—Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton and Porter Novelli—reports indicate that all three will pick up at least a piece of the consolidated account, which in total is believed to be worth in the low eight figures.
Hill & Knowlton and Porter Novelli are both incumbents. H&K had handled corporate and product public relations for Compaq, which merged with HP earlier this year, while Porter Novelli had managed PR for the imaging and printing group of HP for more than a decade. Burson-Marsteller is a newcomer to the technology giant’s roster of agencies.
HP confirmed that it had concluded its agency review, but declined to provide any additional information. Sources close to the review, however, say that PN will continue to handle the imaging and printing business, while B-M will be responsible for the systems group (servers, storage and software) and the consulting services business and H&K will handle corporate PR as well as PR for the company’s PCs and handheld devices.
Before the merger, HP and Compaq employed a roster of about 50 agencies, including Applied Communications, Golin/Harris, The Hoffman Agency and Weber Shandwick Worldwide. The review was undertaken not to cut costs, but because “we need to implement a new model for the new HP. We are looking to improve the quality and speed and competitiveness of our global PR efforts,” according to Tim Marklein, the company’s director of corporate media relations.
HP is the latest is a growing list of technology companies to consolidate PR operations, following IBM a year ago and Agilent just last week, but Hoffman Agency president Lou Hoffman does not believe that boutique or specialist agencies are being frozen out. “While I expect large IT companies to continue to consolidate their PR agencies I actually see this trend benefiting us,” said Hoffman. “We’ll win our fair share of these opportunities.”
Nevertheless, Hoffman conceded that losing the HP business means his firm will not be able to invest as heavily in its global infrastructure as he had planned.