CHICAGO: Publicis Groupe is merging the reputation and communications practice of creative shop Leo Burnett with MSLGroup Chicago to create an integrated PR offering, effective immediately.
The combined entity will use the MSLGroup Chicago brand. It will serve clients of MSLGroup Chicago and Leo Burnett and manage reputation strategy and execution for agencies in the recently formed Publicis Communications group in the U.S.
MSLGroup Chicago staffers will move into the Leo Burnett Building, alongside agencies such as Leo Burnett, Arc, and Starcom Mediavest Group.
As part of the combination, Amy Cheronis will serve as MD of MSLGroup Chicago, reporting to Ron Guirguis, the newly minted CEO of U.S. operations. The last person to lead MSLGroup’s Midwest operations was Brad Wilks, who left the firm one year ago. Kris Garvey then stepped in as deputy MD, but she departed at the end of 2015, explained Guirguis.
MSLGroup Chicago has consumer and corporate PR practices and represents blue chip clients such as DeVry Education Group, Mazola, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and grill-maker Weber.
"The content MSLGroup can create for clients is going to be much more meaningful and powerful and it gives us a new business entre," said Cheronis, who will oversee about 50 staffers and will be responsible for managing talent and growth across MSLGroup Chicago.
"I think we are going to have a different offering because we are embedded in an ad agency, so that will allow me to get clients and retain top talent," Cheronis said, adding she wants to double the office in terms of clients, revenue, and talent in the next two to three years.
Cheronis formerly served as EVP of Leo Burnett Worldwide reputation and communications. Her responsibilities in that role will be folded into her new one. Previously, Cheronis served as the U.S. communications director at DDB and Tribal DDB for 10 years.
"I focused on the Leo Burnett brand globally, but now the whole team will focus on the Publicis Communications brand, and Leo Burnett sits within that," said Cheronis.
Cheronis said MSLGroup offices in other markets will consider similar combinations. MSLGroup has 3,000-plus staffers in more than 100 offices worldwide.
"We can learn from what we do in Chicago and advance that in other markets quickly and hopefully around the world," she said.
In January, Publicis Groupe restructured its business model by breaking down its disciplines into four "solutions hubs:" Publicis Communications, which houses MSLGroup; Publicis Media; Publicis Sapient; and Publicis Healthcare.
Guirguis said the merger is "the physical manifestation of the purpose of Publicis Communications."The unit is led by Publicis Worldwide CEO Arthur Sadoun. It comprises all the holding company’s creative networks: MSLGroup, Publicis Worldwide, Nurun, Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, as well as BBH and Marcel. It also includes the production hub Prodigious.
"The whole essence of Publicis Communications is putting the client at the center of our business and removing the barriers between our agencies to be able to deliver the best we can for our clients and employees," said Guirguis. "So by working with [Cheronis] and her team and pulling them into our operation at MSL, we end up with increased capacity, we get an amazing new leader in [Cheronis], and an ability to provide scale and reach and capability for clients."
Leo Burnett’s reputation and communications team, which the firm renamed the "Newsroom," echoing the lessons of the journalism and production industries, won In-House PR Team of the Year at the 2016 PRWeek Awards on Thursday night.