MARKET FOCUS NEW JERSEY - Postcards from the edge - With New York and Philadelphia just over their respective rivers, New Jersey PR firms have been overshadowed by the giants in those cities. But, as Isadore Barmash reports, that’s changing

New Jersey is a compact state with a lot of business activity. But for years, PR firms located within the state felt much like second-class citizens. Larger, better-heeled agencies in New York and Philadelphia grabbed the choice national accounts. But time and economics have changed the picture. New Jersey is beginning to come out from those cities’ shadows.

New Jersey is a compact state with a lot of business activity. But for years, PR firms located within the state felt much like second-class citizens. Larger, better-heeled agencies in New York and Philadelphia grabbed the choice national accounts. But time and economics have changed the picture. New Jersey is beginning to come out from those cities’ shadows.

New Jersey is a compact state with a lot of business activity. But

for years, PR firms located within the state felt much like second-class

citizens. Larger, better-heeled agencies in New York and Philadelphia

grabbed the choice national accounts. But time and economics have

changed the picture. New Jersey is beginning to come out from those

cities’ shadows.



New York, of course, has been the larger problem. But lower costs have

prompted many companies to move across the Hudson River to the Garden

State. Among them are AT&T, Pharmacia-Upjohn, Dow Jones and Bloomberg

Radio and Television. Media giants like MSNBC and CNBC found New Jersey

to their liking to begin with.



’New Jersey has become one of the nation’s leading media markets, giving

it added importance along with the closeness to New York’s great

financial market,’ observes Michael Kempner, president and chief

executive of the MWW Group in East Rutherford.



The state is also a major player in clothing, electronics, toys,

sporting goods and glass manufacturing. New Jersey has emerged as the

largest pharmaceuticals producer in the US. Its drug business has been

in the top headlines this month because of the planned merger of Morris

Plains-based Warner-Lambert and Madison-based American Home Products.

That Warner-Lambert decided to spurn a hostile but more lucrative offer

from New York City’s Pfizer may be an indication that the little state

doesn’t need the big city anymore.



Lower costs of operations



Why are these industries attracted to the state? Lower costs of

operations is one reason. Some are coaxed by lush county and state tax

breaks. Ironically, another is the same reason that PR agencies there

have a rough time: Manhattan’s financial and media concentration is just

across the Hudson. Finally, there are people: New Jersey is the nation’s

most populated state.



Michael Cherenson, vice president of the 40-year-old Cherenson Group, an

advertising and PR agency in Livingston, notes that ’there’s a reverse

commute going on in the state. Lots of people who used to live here and

work in New York are now staying here and we’re getting more people to

cross the Hudson to work here.’



The state’s new vitality comes in part from the revitalization of New

Jersey’s largest city, Newark, with a new performing arts center, a

ballpark for minor-league baseball team the Newark Bears and an

augmented skyline with a sweep of new corporate offices. ’We think that

the state is thriving directly because of Newark,’ says Erica Johnson,

PR director for Correct Communications, a Newark agency providing

marketing and PR services.



Correct and its team of 10 have participated in and benefited from the

city’s turnaround and other state activities. For example, it helped

publicize New Jersey Energy Choice, the state’s campaign to acquaint

consumers with its utility deregulation program. It also worked with the

New York Urban League on its 29th annual football classic, drawing

40,000 spectators to Giants Stadium in September.



The Jersey scene is dominated by one 800-pound gorilla, with a myriad of

small shops dotting the state. Overall, the five largest New Jersey

agencies grew 17% in revenues from 1997 to 1998, trailing the national

average growth of 24%, according to PRWeek’s survey of the top 200 PR

firms.



MWW is by far the state’s largest PR agency, employing 200 people in

nine offices around the US (it opened one in Manhattan in August). It’s

quite a feat for a firm founded in one small room in Jersey City 13

years ago. With 1998 total revenues of dollars 17.2 million, MWW gets

much more Jersey business than any of its Jersey rivals but draws about

half of its income from clients outside the state. It is the

sixth-largest independent PR agency in the nation. Clients include

Continental Airlines, McDonald’s Tri-State Group, Bally Total Fitness and

National Discount Brokers.



Full-service agency Gillespie, in Princeton, had the second highest New

Jersey PR revenue in 1998, dollars 1.9 million, but that was a 20% drop

from the previous year. Gillespie is followed on the list by Cherry

Hill-based Star/Rosen, with dollars 1.1 million in 1998 revenue.



Shopping outside state



Even with all the progress, some PR pros believe that too many large,

Jersey-based corporations shop outside the state for PR services. Big

corporations in New Jersey do use local agencies, though mostly for

event or other short-term assignments or smaller consumer accounts. (At

the same time, many New Jersey PR agencies get national accounts from

outside the state.)



’It really depends on the assignment,’ says John McKeegan, spokesman for

Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick. ’We do use them, though.’



Jerry Buckley, communications director for the Campbell Soup Company

(Camden) says, ’We don’t employ a lot of state agencies. We do have the

Sherry Group in Parsippany working for us on event PR. We’re basically a

national company so it’s not important for agencies to know the state as

much as know the country.’



Ann Higgins, managing partner of Danlee PR (Red Bank), the

fourth-largest firm in the PRWeek ranking, with dollars 896,000 in New

Jersey revenue, asserts: ’These companies don’t realize that there are

some wonderful PR firms here. But I don’t think that our PR industry

here has really done enough as a group to correct this.’ You’ll notice

from the rankings below that a number of New Jersey firms didn’t supply

PR income figures for our survey.



Higgins says that when she moved to New Jersey from New York, where she

was head of PR for sales-promotion agency CCM, ’there was no overall

group able to act.’ She started a new organization, the New Jersey PR

Executive Roundtable, with 46 people. ’It gave us a chance to do

something about the problem,’ she says. ’New Jersey is so big that it’s

hard to get to know everyone in the business. The northern unit of the

PRSA is concentrated in the northern portion of the state. We both try

to promote our business but more has to be done.’



In-state agencies, after initially specializing, are becoming more

diversified. Anne Klein & Associates, Marlton, a well-established firm

founded 18 years ago, is tri-specialized: positioning management on

market approach and products, helping companies with environmental and

crisis problems and making management or strategy problems more

palatable to employees and suppliers. The agency employs 11 pros and has

1999 sales of more than dollars 1.2 million, according to the firm.



Paramus-based Rosica Mulhern & Associates has a dual specialty - crisis

management and representing companies selling to schools, retailers and

food stores. Clients include Revlon’s Professional Products division and

Famous Amos cookies. Managing partner John Rosica says the agency has 11

full-timers and three ’outsourcers,’ with total sales of dollars 1.1

million, up 20% from 1998. ’Next year looks especially good for us,’

Rosica says. ’Our business is growing 30% in 2000 because of a number of

irons in the fire that we have.’



On the other hand, Torre Lazar/ Weber in Parsippany is ’100%

healthcare,’ says president Josh Weinstein, although the bulk of its

clients are out-of-state. The agency often uses events to get its

clients exposure; it helped to convene a state conference of school

nurses to prepare a curriculum for girls. The agency, in business only

three years, has eight employees and hopes to have revenues this year

above dollars 1 million.



Obviously, more has to be done to cope with the glitter and lure of the

big New York PR agencies. But, generally, New Jersey PR pros are

encouraged by the new strides the state has made in recent years and

their own progress because of it. ’We’ve been growing at our agency at a

10-12% rate each year,’ says Jerry Klein, a principal of Anne Klein &

Associates, ’and we see a permanently expanding market here for PR.’



NEW JERSEY GIANTS: TOP 5 PR AGENCIES

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