STUDY: Independent Agencies Are a Dying Breed

Everyone wants a merger.

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A new study by The Stevens Group, a consultancy that advises PR agencies on mergers and acquisitions, reached a nearly universal conclusion: independent agencies want to sell, sell, sell.

This is generally good news for owners — and mixed, if not negative, news for their employees.

Large independent agencies like Edelman on the PR side and Wieden+Kennedy on the advertising side are an increasingly rare breed: everyone has either sold to a holding company, merged with a larger agency, or aspires to move in that direction.

The survey only polled “almost 100 principals,” but their answers were basically unanimous:

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And they’re in a hurry (which may have something to do with the fact that more than 60 percent of respondents are 50 or older):

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The most popular answers on the “why” side were “I want to position my firm to compete” and “I want to cash out and retire.” Both scored approximately 50 percent.

Unfortunately, we see this trend producing more cushy middle-management jobs and entry-level employees/independent operators tasked with doing the real work like media relations, planning, and even content creation.

As Meredith Fineman of Fine Point PR told us in March:

“[PR in general is] very saturated, there are a ton of small shops, and it’s heavily commoditized.

We end up throwing out the baby out with bathwater because everyone just wants press hits. All salaries are going down because there are so many players in the game, and that’s a shame to me.”

Here’s the scariest chart:

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It’s hard out there for a communicator.