PMK-BNC and Rogers & Cowan, Now Hollywood’s Biggest PR Firm — But Is That Better?

Two companies merge their client lists to become one of the top 20 PR firms in the world, but boutiques have their own advantages.
PMK-BNC, Rogers & Cowan merger
Cindi Berger, chairman; Shirley Hughes, president, brand division; Mark Owens, chief executive; Alan Nierob, chairman, entertainment division.
Glenn Nutley/PMK-BNC and Rogers & Cowan

When major PR firms merge, they’re usually consolidating in order to stay on top. It’s a little different for former standalones PMK-BNC (which has merged at least four times in 40 years) and Rogers & Cowan (founded in 1950, acquired multiple times): Both are owned by the publicly traded Interpublic Group (2018 revenue: $9.71 billion). Now, they will form a single firm (yet to be named) that will represent more than 500 clients and 30 brands.

So why the change? The combo creates a more impressive client list, and will allow them to trim the expenses and other redundancies that come when two entities merge. It’s the easiest and fastest way to become bigger while meeting the demands of their corporate overlords.

Of course, bigger is not always better. Still, when the new company officially launches January 1, it will dwarf Kelly Bush and Mara Buxbaum’s ID-PR. It will also become one of the top 20 PR firms in the world, according to current R&C co-president Alan Nierob, who will become chairman of the new entertainment division. The breathless press release calls the company “the preeminent integrated marketing and communications agency in global entertainment.”

IPG, which houses both PR firms at its Century City offices (they have separate offices in New York, while R&C also has outposts in Nashville, Miami, and London), will combine their backroom accounting and human resource support systems, adding efficiency. So far, no one has left either company.

Spike Lee and Denzel WashingtonAFI Honors Denzel Washington, Show, Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles, USA - 06 Jun 2019
Spike Lee and Denzel WashingtonRob Latour/Shutterstock

In many ways, both firms represent the old order. The PR world is now comprised of multiple boutiques run by the likes of ex-PMK press agents Jennifer Allen and Melissa Kates (Viewpoint reps Matt Damon, Dwayne Johnson, Kristen Stewart, Lily Tomlin, Zac Efron, and Jesse Eisenberg), who peeled off from the big firms and function with less overhead and no corporate quotas. The Lede Company was launched in 2018 by three publicists from 42 West (which itself broke away from PMK when Pat Kingsley sold it to IPG), and represents Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Reese Witherspoon.

PMK CEO Cindi Berger told the New York Times that she proposed the merger to Nierob last December in a hotel bathroom. (He liked it.) She will run the combined entity as chairman with R&C CEO Mark Owens as chief executive.

Neirob’s entertainment division will boast not only his clients Denzel Washington and Mel Gibson, and R&C’s roster (including Brie Larson, Felicity Jones, Jeremy Renner, Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordan, Chris Pratt, Robert Zemeckis, and Anthony and Joe Russo), but also clients repped by Berger and PMK entertainment strategists such as Brad Cafarelli and Catherine Olim. These include Robert Redford, Sandra Bullock, Lorde, Whoopi Goldberg, Glenn Close, Ed Harris, and Emma Thompson.

Years and Years Emma Thompson HBO
Emma Thompson in “Years and Years”Robert Ludovic/HBO

With the merger, PMK-BNC adds analytics and top music clients, including Trisha Yearwood, to R&C’s music stars Mick Jagger, Elton John and Katy Perry. It also gets three divisions that PMK-BNC recently lacked: sports (the Octagon Sports and Entertainment Network), branding, and digital media. The combined corporate client list of 30 brands includes Activision, Audi, Chopard, Cisco, Fred Segal, Hasbro, Mastercard, McDonald’s, Masterpiece Theater, Microsoft, Pandora, Royal Caribbean, Samsung, Vice Media, YouTube, and Verizon.

“We don’t have to compete against these people anymore,” said Nierob. “We can work with them.”

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