Publicis Eyes a Merger of Hispanic Shops Bromley, PS&L

Publicis Groupe is mulling a merger of Bromley Communications, the second-largest Hispanic ad agency in the U.S. and one of the oldest, with a younger, hipper Hispanic unit, Publicis Sanchez & Levitan, sources said.

The discussions come as Publicis continues to sort out how best to incorporate Bcom3, which it purchased for $3 billion in September 2002 (Bcom3 owned Bromley). Also, the network has been looking to expand its Latino marketing capabilities, sources said. Publicis already handles an estimated $450 million in billings—some 15 percent of what the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies estimates is now a $3 billion ad market (and growing at an average rate of 17 percent per year, in terms of aggregate dollars billed by agencies).

Ernest Bromley, CEO of Bromley, said, “There are conversations going on. … We’re basically in the process of looking at it, but we haven’t finalized any plans.”

Sources said Bromley would become chairman of the new entity. The roles to be taken by Aida Levitan and Fausto Sanchez, co-chairs of PS&L since 2001, are unknown, sources said. No decision has been reached on a name or where the merged shop would be headquartered (Bromley is based in San Antonio, PS&L in Miami). But if the plan proceeds, the merger could take place as soon as the end of January.

Sources said the talks are being spearheaded by Publicis USA CEO Susan Gianinno. She declined comment.

If a deal is reached, it would create a $260 million agency, based on 2002 billings estimates—close to the $270 million claimed by the largest Hispanic player, WPP Group’s Bravo Group. Bromley, founded in 1981, has 120 people and handles client including Burger King, Coors and Procter & Gamble. PS&L, founded in 1986, has 80 people; its top accounts are Nestlé, L’Oréal, and Pennzoil. The two shops do not have any obvious conflicts.

“[PS&L] is a little more modern, and their creative is a little more edgy,” said Patricio Montalbetti, former vp at Pan-American Sports Network and now COO of Perez Montalbetti in Atlanta. “Sanchez and Levitan are more Cuban-oriented, and Bromley are more Mexican. It’s going to be a good combination.”

Bromley’s work for P&G’s Crest Whitening Plus Scope toothpaste—which included the first Spanish-language P&G spot for a consumer brand to air on English-language TV—was a finalist for the Association of National Advertisers’ 2003 Multicultural Excellence Awards.

Hispanics’ buying power is increasing by 9 percent annually, faster than that of any other minority group, and will total $925 billion by 2007, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia. Either by acquisitions of whole agencies or minority stakes, all the holding companies have become players in the space.

Publicis also owns Hispanic shops Lapiz in Chicago and Conill in New York, which have estimated billings of $135 million and $70 million, respectively. Tapestry, its Hispanic media buying and planning unit, handles about $400 million in Hispanic billings (including some but not all of the other Publicis Hispanic shops’ accounts).

WPP’s Hispanic shops, Bravo and Mendoza Dillon, claim a total of $370 million in billings. Omnicom Groupe’s entries in the segment—Dieste Harmel & Partners, del Rivero Messianu DDB and Cultura—claim $235 million.

Interpublic Group’s lineup is Casanova Pendrill, SiboneyUSA, Accentmarketing, multicultural shop GlobalHue and Hill, Holliday Hispanic. Those shops have estimated total billings of $200 million. Grey Global Group’s single Hispanic shop is the $100 million Wing Latino.