Ketchum Seeks a New Parent

Ketchum Advertising, hard-hit in the past year by account losses, is expected to have a new owner and name by the end of the month, officials at the agency said.
Ketchum, with some $40 million in billings and based in Pittsburgh, is owned by Omnicom Group and reports to TBWA International. But shop executives said the 3-year-old relationship with TBWA isn’t working.
Earle Palmer Brown, based in New York, is thought to be a leading candidate as a new owner. Officials at EPB confirmed the pair have held talks, saying the shops both mesh on client service, creative and integrated marketing fronts, but declined further comment. Ketchum president Dave Egan declined to name any other suitors. “We’re looking at a number of possibilities,” he said.
The recent losses of founding client PNC Bank (a $10-15 million account), and Imation ($15-25 million), and a need for a “better strategic fit,” have all contributed to the search for a new owner, Egan said.
Regardless, the agency will likely drop the Ketchum moniker because Omnicom wants to retain its Ketchum Public Relations business. Omnicom and TBWA officials could not be reached for comment.
Omnicom acquired 75-year-old Ketchum in 1996 when it bought Ketchum Communications, which includes Ketchum PR and Ketchum Directory Advertising (the latter two are not included in the talks).
Officials at the agency said the relationship with TBWA never jelled. “It hasn’t fit terribly well strategically for us,” Egan said. “We feel like we would be better served and be a more visible part of another organization.”
Sources said the shop received little help from TBWA in defending PNC; and a Pittsburgh office did not fit with TBWA Worldwide chairman Lee Clow’s vision for the network.
–with Kathleen Sampey