Pittsburgh Agency Finds New Owner, Name Change ‘Liberating’
CHICAGO–After three unfruitful years as part of the Omnicom Group, the management of Ketchum Advertising in Pittsburgh is optimistic an ownership change will open up greater opportunities.
“The burden of proof is now on us, and that’s what we want,” said executive creative director Lee St. James. “I find that terribly liberating.”
New York-based Earle Palmer Brown announced last week it will acquire the $50 million shop and rename it Egan/St. James, after St. James and agency president Dave Egan. The acquisition was expected after Ketchum officials admitted displeasure with their role in the Omnicom structure [Adweek, July 12].
Naming the agency after its two principals is expected to offer an aura of stability to its current roster of clients, which include Zippo Manufacturing Co., Eaton Corp. and Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
“We were a little concerned that our clients would say, ‘Who are those people?'” St. James said of the new relationship with EPB.
The deal gives EPB a Midwest presence, while at the same time allowing the Pittsburgh agency to continue its 75-year history.
“What meant most to us was that we would be a valued presence [in the network],” St. James said.
Omnicom bought Ketchum Communications in 1996. Two other units acquired through that purchase, Ketchum Public Relations and Ketchum Directory Advertising, will remain with the New York-based network.
Ketchum Advertising was put under the auspices of TBWA International, but agency officials said the relationship never jelled and a Pittsburgh presence did not fit with TBWA chairman Lee Clow’s vision.
“It’s hard to be part of a network and be called ‘those guys,'” St. James said.
The strained relationship, coupled with the loss of two sizable accounts–founding client PNC Bank ($10-15 million) and Imation ($15-25 million)–prompted Egan and St. James to explore other options, from reporting through another Omnicom entity to possibly buying out the agency themselves, St. James said.
“We decided we needed to do something, and this wound up making the most sense,” he said.
The agency will operate as an independent entity within EPB but contribute “where and as needed,” St. James said. –with Kathleen Sampey
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