WPP subsidiary Burson Cohn and Wolfe has acquired the Rockville-based company known as HZ for an undisclosed sum. Executives said HZ will remain in Rockville, Md, and operate as an independent subsidiary, though the two firms will support one another by sharing clients and skill-sets. HZ co-founders Karen Zuckerman, left in photo, and Jerry Zuckerman are to remain in charge.
According to The Washington Post, the deal “is the latest example of churn in the advertising business, which has been upended by the internet along with most traditional media. As new technology revolutionizes the ways people access information, classic advertising channels like newspaper and television have lost ground to online giants like Google and Facebook.
“The shift has meant cocktail-swigging, Don Draper-style pitch-men are increasingly not the face of the ad industry. Instead, HZ has sought to recruit tech-savvy millennials proficient in things like software engineering and web design. About 60 percent of HZ’s 200-odd employees are women.
“WPP itself is in the midst of a leadership transition after its founding chief executive Martin Sorrell — a towering figure in the ad world who was knighted by the Queen of England and whose personal identity came to define his company’s image — stepped down in April amid an investigation into what the company called “personal misconduct.” (The Wall Street Journal reported that the investigation had looked into whether he used company funds to pay a prostitute, something Sorrell denied doing.)
“Like many of its peers, WPP faces steep financial headwinds. Its sales were flat last year and it reported a slow start to 2018. As of Friday the company’s stock was down about 20 percent percent from where it was a year ago.
“One of the holding company’s notable recent accomplishments, however, has been its combination of Burson Marsteller and Cohn and Wolfe, both of them well-known PR firms, to form BCW. The combination has been overseen by a woman named Donna Imperato, (right in photo), who sits at the helm of what is now the third-largest public relations company behind Edelman and Weber Shandwick, according to one industry ranking.
“Imperato’s approach to navigating the broader disruption that followed from the internet is to diversify her company’s offerings and build digital skill-sets into older practices. Gone are the days when an ad agency afford to have a separate “digital practice” to deal with the internet, she says.
““We have to all become digitally-savvy because that’s the nature of our work,” she said. “It’s a little disruptive, but I feel very strongly that my vision is correct here.””