After a flurry of speculation, Interpublic confirmed it is merging its entertainment public relations and marketing companies BNC and PMK/HBH to create a new firm PMK-BNC, effective Jan. 1.
Execs at BNC, a firm that specializes in corporate clients, will oversee the new entity: BNC chairman, CEO Michael Nyman retains those titles at the merged firm; COO Chris Robichaud will also have the CEO title and be responsible for the company's operations, consumer brand marketing and public relations. At PMK/HBH, one of Hollywood's biggest celebrity public relations shops, co-CEO Cindi Berger is becoming chairman, CEO at PMK-BNC and will focus on the entertainment and media relations part of the business. BNC co-founder Brad Cafarelli becomes vice chairman.
As a result, top PMK/HBH principals have reportedly quit: Stephen Huvane, Robin Baum and Andy Gelb left to form a new agency, taking clients like Jennifer Aniston, Anne Hathaway, Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom with them. PMK/HBH CEO Simon Halls also announced he was quitting.
Amid studio budget cutbacks, lessened influence of the traditional entertainment media and surging, uncontrollable celebrity coverage on the Web, it's been a tough year for Hollywood PR mavens. Earlier this year, PMK co-founder Pat Kingsley, known for her A-list roster of celebrities like Tom Cruise at the peak of his career, formally left her agency after relinquishing her chairman, CEO title 16 months earlier. At 76-years-old, Kingsley's departure could be expected, but more symbolically it marked the end to an era where, as the most powerful image broker in Hollywood, she could dictate coverage terms and magazine cover choices. More than anyone in entertainment, Kingsley rewrote the rules about how to use the media as a promotional tool.
"We are at a transformational time in the worlds of entertainment and consumer marketing and this newly created company will not only fill a void, but assume a leadership position in providing new solutions to better guide clients into the future," BNC CEO Nyman said in a statement. "Today marks a great new beginning point, from which we plan to build."
McCann Erickson's Momentum Worldwide acquired PMK in February 1999, which at the time worked with celebrities like Cruise, Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman, Oliver Stone, Michelle Pfeiffer, Matt Damon, Johnny Depp, Rosie O'Donnell, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese.
In May 2001, Momentum acquired Huvane Baum Halls, which then boasted clients like Aniston, Jude Law and Liv Tyler, and merged the two shops. In 2005, PMK's Pat Kingsley effectively fired her partner Leslee Dart -- by not renewing her contract -- and the highly popular Dart left the agency with a group of high-profile clients.
In January 2001, IPG's Weber Shandwick Worldwide unit bought Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, whose clients included Whoopi Goldberg, Cameron Diaz, Kate Hudson, Olympic medalist Marion Jones and corporate marketers like Kellogg's, Pizza Hut, KFC and Sony PlayStation 2.
In a statement, IPG CEO Michael Roth said of the latest move: "We continue to see great interest on the part of marketers in tapping into the power and creativity of the entertainment industry to engage with and motivate consumers in an increasingly fragmented media landscape. Bringing these two companies together will create something special in entertainment marketing and give IPG an unprecedented leadership position in this important space. The breadth of resources and opportunities that PMK-BNC will provide to clients should be a real differentiator in the marketplace."