Riney’s New Act: Penn & Teller

After a tough six months that included losing its marquee client and laying off more than 100 staffers, Publicis & Hal Riney has picked up a high-profile account.

The San Francisco agency was hired by comedy and magic performing team Penn & Teller to create a campaign that will run primarily in Western markets.

Penn & Teller recently began a permanent show at Harrah’s Entertainment-owned Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. TV, print and radio ads will break in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas later this summer. Billings were not disclosed.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to do some great creative for renowned entertainers in Las Vegas,” account director Brad Fogel said, adding that the agency is “thrilled to be working with such funny, intelligent guys.”

Riney’s tough year began with the loss in February of the $300 million Saturn account, which the agency had held since the brand’s launch in the early 1990s. The loss forced Riney to cut roughly 140 jobs. Earlier this month, agency founder and chairman Hal Riney retired.

“Any win in this market is a good morale boost,” one source said. “And any time you lose 40 percent of your staff in two weeks, you could use a morale boost.”

Sources said Riney’s previous work for casinos and other Las Vegas attractions helped it win the business. “They have pretty impressive roots in Vegas and show-business entertainment,” one source said, citing Riney’s efforts throughout the 1990s for casinos such as the Mirage. “Penn & Teller are part of that entertainment. If this can help them with their reel and give them a platform to go from, then it’s great.”

Penn & Teller began their permanent show at the Rio on June 14.

“We’ve been cookin’ this goddamn steak for 27 years. Let’s see if these cats can sell the sizzle,” Penn Jillette, part of the duo, said in a statement.

Penn & Teller have written two books and hosted a TV variety show. They will do a modified version of their show on a permanent stage at the Rio. Last year the duo appeared in tourism spots for Las Vegas from R&R Partners, describing the city as “a big prom for middle-aged people.”

Publicis & Hal Riney, with roughly $620 million in billings, also works with Hewlett-Packard and Siebel Systems.