Industry bosses take advantage of economic restrictions to go it alone

As the PR industry emerges from recession, an increasing number of senior industry figures are taking advantage of the economic restrictions placed on bigger agencies to branch out on their own.

Jonathan Jordan: set up Sermelo
Jonathan Jordan: set up Sermelo

One example is former Downing Street special adviser Darren Murphy, who is set to join forces with ex-Number 10 colleagues to start a new political comms venture.

This follows last week's PRWeek exclusive that Seventy Seven PR's three managing partners are leaving the Fishburn Hedges-owned agency to launch independent ventures.

After a period of consolidation in the early period of the recession, the PRCA's chief executive Francis Ingham said that the industry was now experiencing a 'vibrant' period for start-ups.

Burson-Marsteller's UK CEO Jonathan Jordan left last year to set up strategic comms consultancy Sermelo. He argued that the number of new agencies emerging in the industry would continue to rise and warned that the traditional agency model must 'quickly evolve or face decline'.

'Changing client needs and economic conditions means the industry is at a point of inflection,' said Jordan. 'Current market conditions present many risks and opportunities; the most talented people will probably be drawn to the latter.'

Tim Burt, managing partner of recently formed City agency StockWell Group, suggested that growing investment within in-house teams was driving clients away from large full-service operations towards smaller, boutique agencies.

'Clients don't need the same large team support that they may have done in the past because the in-house resources have got better,' said Burt.

'What they still require is senior level strategic counsel. And that has created an opportunity for agencies that have senior level experience but without having to provide many of the commodity services,' he added.

Ingham argued the new generation of start-ups were being driven by the desire of founders to own significant equity in the businesses they work for - something that has proved difficult given the prevalence of agencies now owned by big marcoms groups.

He said: 'The unique thing about PR is you can become quite affluent by working for somebody else, but nobody becomes rich by working for somebody else.'

Also read:Independents –  Small comms shops claim to have edge over big boys

 

2011 START-UPS

  • September Darren Murphy announces political comms venture; Seventy Seven PR's Jo Carr and James Gordon-MacIntosh leave to launch consumer shop. Fellow managing partner Alan Twigg to launch separate consumer venture.
  • July Morgan Rossiter established by Richard Morgan Evans, formerly MD of The Communication Group's financial practice, and James Rossiter, a director at Brunswick.

 

IN NUMBERS

£7.5bn The estimated turnover of the UK PR industry*

26 The number of new entries in PRWeek 2011 Top 150

61,600 The estimated number of individuals working in the UK PR industry*

£78k The average annual salary of agency board director/partner*

*Source: PR Census 2011

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