Paul Holmes 31 Jul 2013 // 7:27AM GMT
There were two big PR industry mergers announced this weekend. And clearly one of them—the coming together of Omnicom and Publicis to create a giant marketing services group and the largest owner of PR businesses in the world—as slightly bigger than the other, which saw midsized Minneapolis firm Padilla Speer Beardsley acquire CRT/tanaka. But from a PR perspective, the deal that is not on the front page of this morning’s Financial Times is perhaps the most interesting. It certainly makes the most strategic sense. Padilla Speer Beardsley is an extremely impressive, well-managed firm; in many ways, it’s a perfect illustration of the qualities that have helped the midsized independents outperform the large, global publicly-traded agencies. It understands the value chain (take care of your people and your people will take care of your clients) and has consistently ranked close to the top in our Best Agencies to Work For research. It has also invested in new, value-added services: a research and insights capability, a crisis and litigation specialty, a suite of digital and creative services. And it acquired CRT/tanaka with a clear purpose in mind. It needed an expanded New York presence, and the combined operation has more than 30 in what is still the country’s most important media market. And the Richmond-based firm is a good cultural fit—it too has a reputation as one of the industry’s best workplaces—and adds new services (particularly its strategic branding capability) without any obvious conflicts. If there is an equally compelling rationale for the Omnicom-Publicis deal—at least from the perspective of the PR businesses involved—it is not readily apparent. That’s because the deal was driven by considerations (explored by my colleague Aarti Shah in her own analysis) that had little or nothing to do with PR. That’s not to say that the merger will necessarily be bad for FleishmanHillard, Ketchum, MSL, Porter Novelli or any of the smaller firms involved. But it is to say that to a slightly alarming degree, the fate of those firms is in the hands of people for whom their businesses are not always a major consideration.