By Phil Rabin
WPP’s “jolting” news that it plans to merge BCW and Hill & Knowlton into a $1 billion megafirm called Burson — creating the PR industry’s biggest player — has industry leaders questioning what the merger brings to the marketplace besides scale, states PRovoke Media.
The PRovoke Media post adds: ““This reflects a general WPP philosophy to streamline and centralize, but a big challenge now will be conflict management,” said Greg Paull, principal and co-founder of agency consultancy R3. “Few navigate this better than WPP but public relations is a sensitive, high touch, contact sport, and resolving conflict under what was once three agencies will take some management.”
“Yet WPP is also looking at having to reconcile a range of differences that typically exist between agencies, from cultural nuances to salary and billing scales.
““Mergers are difficult. Bringing together two well-established agency brands is an interesting development for the industry,” said Omnicom PR Group CEO Chris Foster, a former BCW North America president. “Our strategy at OPRG is to support and promote the iconic brands within our portfolio and to come together as integrated OPRG teams when it best serves the needs of our clients. I am looking forward to seeing how things unfold over the next few months with Burson.””
Beyond the economic realities facing the communications community, the long run suggests the future lies in agencies becoming adept at dealing with data and AI. In fact data and AI will force agencies to reinvent themselves to succeed. A post in the Hartford Business Journal summed it up with the following.
“There’s more emphasis today on measuring engagement versus just impressions,” Adams & Knight CEO Jill Adams said. “It’s not enough to say how many people viewed your TV spot or saw your digital ad; we want to know who interacted with a brand with a download, click, follow, like, post or hashtag.”
The explosion of social media and online content has revolutionized how consumers research, interact with and recommend brands. It has also put the onus on advertising and marketing firms to track the effectiveness of social media campaigns through data-driven research.
The need for better and more “real-time” analytics has not only changed the landscape of the advertising industry in general, but has also shifted the way agencies operate. No longer is it good enough for firms just to be creative; they need to know, understand and interpret numbers too.
“We’ve been bringing new people on board with a focus on social media strategists and data-driven marketers,” said Tony Cashman, president & CEO of Glastonbury-based Cashman + Katz. “Today’s creative, media and public relations practitioners must be able to better understand the intricacies and nuances of digital and social media while being able to effectively analyze data to explain results, see opportunities and address client’s challenges.”
Metrics, Cashman said, have become a much bigger part of client needs and expectations.
The bottom line from the “jolting” WPP news may have been a recognition that agencies – and in fact, all communicators – must enter a new era, one that requires more than a restructuring to survive, but a recognition that survival will depend on understanding the new tools and techniques that are not only coming in coming years, but are on our doorstep today.