Earle Palmer Brown president Jeb Brown hitched his agency’s star to the “integrated marketing” wagon a decade ago, and the firm has persisted with its emphasis on an integrated philosophy long after most of its larger competitors unbundled their advertising, public relations, and promotion capabilities—a move most PR firms found liberating and catalytic. At EPB, the parent company’s approach undercut the reputation of its PR subsidiary—which was perceived as subservient to the ad agency’s interests—and led to high turnover at the senior level, at least until the arrival of a new generation of PR leadership three years ago.
The new leadership team, headed by Bozell Public Relations veteran Fred Thompson, has found a way to make the integrated arrangement work, emphasizing a media neutral approach and an absence of the politics that pervade other PR-ad agency marriages. The PR group offers a broad range of services—consumer and business-to-business marketing, corporate communications, public affairs, and online communication—sometimes working closely with the ad agency parent, sometimes working completely independently. In some offices, PR people work so closely with their advertising colleagues that there really is no PR department. In other areas—particularly the public affairs operation in Washington, D.C.—public relations remains almost entirely independent.
The result is that EPB, still regarded as a fringe player by most of its competitors, has managed to grow consistently in recent years. It will be up 15 percent in 2000, ending the year with revenues of around $12 million. And it continues to add significant accounts, including Johnson & Johnson’s Band Aid brand; Uncle Ben’s; Beck’s beer; Comcast; and Digital Access, while continuing to serve clients such as Novartis Animal Health, M&M/Mars and SmartEnergy. It has a growing technology practice and recently launched epb-i, offering interactive programming to clients.