Publicis New York and corporate sibling Kaplan Thaler Group—seeking additional scale and resources for their respective agencies—are merging operations to create a new U.S. flagship, Publicis Kaplan Thaler, for the Paris-based global network.
Linda Kaplan Thaler, CEO and chief creative officer at KTG, is assuming the role of chairman at the combined agency. Her colleague Robin Koval, president at KTG, will become CEO and replaces Publicis N.Y. chief Joe McCarthy, a former Johnson & Johnson worldwide marketing exec who is leaving the agency. Rob Feakins, president and CCO at Publicis N.Y., will continue in that role.
The two agencies, which already were sharing clients like Merck and Procter & Gamble, will combine operations in KTG’s midtown Manhattan space at Broadway and 52nd Street, where Publicis Groupe is already the largest tenant.
Susan Gianinno, CEO of Publicis Worldwide in the U.S., acknowledged there was a client conflict with the two shops which has been resolved through establishing new internal structures to keep the accounts separate. Gianinno declined to identify the conflict, but Publicis N.Y. works for global giant Citigroup while KTG handles U.S. Bank, which operates in 25 states.
Gianinno said her focus in recent years has largely been on bolstering the agency’s digital operations but with the KTG transaction, she has turned her attention to the Publicis Groupe agencies in New York. While the merger idea has come up in the past, it developed into a serious discussion in the last couple of months.
“How do we get both agencies to the next level, to grow, add scale and become more competitive in such an important market like New York? Kaplan Thaler has creativity top of mind, a diversity of great clients and an amazing new-business track record," she said. "They get into amazing new-business pitches but they get asked, ‘Where’s your global footprint and extent of digital resources?' "
This year, KTG acquired additional work from Merck and added Daisy sour cream, Rosetta Stone, Edmunds.com and Ampyra, an multiple sclerosis drug manufactured by Acorda.
Gianinno stressed the transaction is a merger, not a takeover, and there will be no layoffs. “This is not being driven by any kind of efficiencies,” she said.
For her part, the 61-year-old Kaplan Thaler, who founded her agency in 1997, said the move is not a precursor to stepping back from her namesake. In emphasizing her commitment going forward, Thaler said she sees the merger into a worldwide network as a new beginning. “We already have the kind of clients that could grow globally,” she said.
In addition, Koval cited the tough industry competition for digital and technology talent and said that being part of a bigger organization with a broader range of clients makes it easier to attract talent.