Gibbs & Soell and rbb launch joint venture focused on 'conscious consumers'

Gibbs & Soell and rbb Public Relations have launched a joint venture to help brands engage consumers who are making purchase decisions based on health, sustainability, and CSR.

NEW YORK: Gibbs & Soell and rbb Public Relations have launched a joint venture to help brands engage consumers who are making purchase decisions based on health, sustainability, and CSR.

The agency, known as Gibbs-rbb Strategic Communications, focuses on offering integrated communications solutions to food, beverage, and CPG clients seeking to form and strengthen relationships with "conscious consumers," said Gibbs & Soell president and CEO Luke Lambert.

"People are getting more engaged in the type of information they want from brands," said Christine Barney, rbb’s CEO and managing partner, who noted that the market for conscious consumers is growing and was valued at $120 billion in 2013.

"There is a convergence of different opportunities in media, publicity, and digital that gives brands options they didn’t have before," said Barney.

Prior to Gibbs-rbb, she added that there appeared to be a gap in the market for firms addressing this particular segment.

The joint firm draws on the complementary strengths of the two firms: rbb’s credibility as it relates to food marketing and CPG clients, and Gibbs & Soell’s expertise on all areas along the supply and value chain from agribusiness and branding to digital and SEO.

"In our name, we are saying ‘strategic communications,’" she said. "That means looking at it from not only specialties, like media relations and digital, but also research, issues management, and creative services."

The agency will provide clients with holistic solutions – from product innovation through execution – to maximize their market potential.

Gibbs-rbb’s first hire is Jeffrey Graubard, who joins as MD and reports to Gibbs & Soell EVP Jeff Altheide.

Based in Gibbs & Soell’s corporate headquarters in New York, Graubard will have support from more than 175 employees worldwide across both firms. He is tasked with overseeing client development and operations, along with account management.

"I will be developing the voice of the joint venture, and learning about both agencies and what our strengths are," Graubard said. "The main aim is for the new firm to be a thought leader in the field of food and beverage marketing."

Prior to joining Gibbs-rbb, Graubard managed external corporate media relations in North America for Unilever. Since leaving the role in May 2013, he has been doing consulting work, he said.

Between 1992 and 2011, he led The Graubard Group, which specialized in consumer, sports, and CSR communications for clients such as American Dairy Association, General Mills, Wise Snacks, Nikon, Verizon, and Walmart.

Gibbs-rbb’s principals include Barney, Altheide, rbb partner and EVP Tina Elmowitz, and Gibbs & Soell’s principal and sustainability consulting practice MD Ron Loch.

Several years ago, rbb referred a client to Gibbs & Soell, which resulted in a business win, and the relationship between the firms has grown since then, said Lambert. The idea for the venture, however, was first kicked around in May.

Although Lambert described the firms’ approach to business as "likeminded," when asked about the possibility for a future merger between the two companies, he explained that, at the moment, the current collaboration is all that is planned.

"Right now, we think our clients are better served by [Gibbs & Soell and rbb] remaining separate agencies," he said.

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