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Hollywood’s 2 Biggest Public Relations Firms to Merge


LOS ANGELES — Hollywood’s two biggest public relations agencies announced a merger on Tuesday, creating a combined firm with more than 500 clients as competition from boutique publicity agencies intensifies.

Both of the merging agencies, PMK-BNC and Rogers & Cowan, are owned by Interpublic Group, but they have competed as stand-alone public relations and branding agencies. By joining forces they expect to reduce costs while providing clients with greater resources.

“It does create efficiencies, but it’s also about servicing our clients better,” Alan Nierob, a co-president of Rogers & Cowan, said in a telephone interview.

The new agency, whose name has not yet been determined, will be run by Cindi Berger as chairman and Mark Owens as chief executive. Ms. Berger previously led PMK-BNC; Mr. Owens was her counterpart at Rogers & Cowan. Mr. Nierob, as chairman of the entertainment division, will oversee celebrity clients like Denzel Washington, Brie Larson, Robert Redford, Michael B. Jordan, Felicity Jones and Chris Pratt.

PMK-BNC and Rogers & Cowan also represent music stars like Elton John and Katy Perry; filmmakers like Robert Zemeckis and Anthony and Joe Russo; and an array of corporate clients that includes McDonald’s, Microsoft, Royal Caribbean, Samsung, Verizon, YouTube, Audi, Hasbro and Mastercard.

The clubby world of entertainment public relations has splintered in recent years, with blue-chip firms losing clients to boutiques founded by a new generation of high-profile publicists. Kovert Creative was started in 2016 by former PMK-BNC publicists and represents comedians like Jimmy Kimmel and Amy Poehler. Young publicists from the firm ID struck out on their own in 2017, forming a company called Narrative that represents Jennifer Lawrence and Margot Robbie. Last year, three publicists left the agency 42 West to start the Lede Company, bringing clients like Lady Gaga, Reese Witherspoon and Rihanna with them.

The advent of social media has also brought major change to the business. No longer is it enough to place articles in glossy magazines like Vanity Fair, escort stars down the red carpet or try to dodge tabloid gossip. Celebrity publicists must now contend with a volatile, web-driven, 24-hour media culture that operates on a global scale, forcing them to become less gatekeeper and more frenetic multitasker.

Ms. Berger said in a phone interview that she brought up the idea of a merger to Mr. Nierob in December. They were at a hotel for a media event for “Welcome to Marwen,” a comedic drama directed by Mr. Zemeckis. For privacy, the two veteran publicists locked themselves in one of the hotel’s bathrooms, Ms. Berger said.

“We were talking in general terms about the business, and I said, ‘Alan, come with me — I have an idea,’” she said. “And Alan said, ‘Wow. That would be really epic.’”

Rogers & Cowan, which, unlike PMK-BNC, has a sports division, was founded in 1950. PMK and BNC had a tumultuous merger in 2010 that resulted in the departures of top publicists. Before that, PMK was the realm of Pat Kingsley, who ruled the public relations industry in Hollywood for much of the 1980s and ’90s.


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