Last week’s news that Creative Artists Agency (CAA) acquired an estimated 40% stake in PR firm Shepardson Stern & Kaminsky (SS+K) set off alarms. Some were thrilled by the presence of a glamorous new type of player - Hollywood talent shops with Hollywood stars - in the agency-acquisition game, while others rejoiced that their prattle about ’synergy’ was finally being justified by events in the real world.
Last week’s news that Creative Artists Agency (CAA) acquired an
estimated 40% stake in PR firm Shepardson Stern & Kaminsky (SS+K) set
off alarms. Some were thrilled by the presence of a glamorous new type
of player - Hollywood talent shops with Hollywood stars - in the
agency-acquisition game, while others rejoiced that their prattle about
’synergy’ was finally being justified by events in the real world.
The deal ostensibly marries SS+K’s branding and crisis communications
capabilities with what SS+K partner Lenny Stern describes as CAA’s
’cultural intelligence.’ And it certainly gives SS+K a starry sheen that
few other PR agencies can match.
Forgive us, then, if we wait for tangible results before labeling the
deal as anything other than an alliance between two disparate
CAA, which has faced its share of problems since founder Michael Ovitz
left for a post (which he has since vacated) with Disney, clearly needs
to have a PR firm on retainer. Whether CAA needs to have an agency of
SS+K’s considerable expertise in its back pocket, however, is
As for SS+K, being able to lap at the wellspring of CAA’s stars may
prove fruitful - especially if, as rumored, clients like Ameritech and
Polo Ralph Lauren have already inquired about projects centered around
CAA talent. But until the theoretical brilliance of the CAA/SS+K union
translates into real-world performance, we’ll withhold judgment.
Speaking of unwanted celebrity, the much-maligned image of the PR
industry took another hit recently in Time magazine. In what was
otherwise a paean to the ’Second Wave’ of Silicon Valley hi-tech
entrepreneurs, the esteemed newsweekly devoted a none-too-flattering
sidebar to the PR firms that operate in the Valley’s IPO-crazed
What could have been a great opportunity to highlight the crucial role
that PR firms play in the start-up process instead turned into an
embarrassment for PR pros everywhere.
Among other inanities, Blanc & Otus co-founder Simone Otus was quoted as
saying, ’We look like we’re cool because we have (digital VCR firm)
TiVo.’ Funny - when we ask firms why they go after certain clients, they
usually talk about strategic synergies and compatible cultures. The
client’s Q rating doesn’t normally come into the picture.
But it didn’t stop there. After admitting that 28-year-old account execs
at the firm bring home dollars 70,000 a year (we could hear the HR
departments’ groans from here), Otus talked about the romances that are
often sparked between wealthy Valley entrepreneurs and hot-to-trot
female account staffers. If you didn’t know any better - and most Time
readers don’t - you would think that Valley hi-tech firms leverage their
’well-dressed and attractive’ employees to win pitches for especially
Talk about a great leap backwards for the industry.
But should we be surprised? After all, this is the magazine that once
equated Edward Bernays with the assassin whose shots started World