Omnicom PR Group's James Kelly launches consultancy

He previously led strategy and planning at MMK+, which spans Ketchum, Porter Novelli, FleishmanHillard and Marina Maher Communications and works for Procter & Gamble.

NEW YORK: James Kelly, former global director of strategy and creative planning for MMK+, the Omnicom Public Relations Group network created for Procter & Gamble, has started his own New York-based shop. 

Kelly launched the consultancy, called Cumulus Strategies, in July, three months after leaving MMK+ in the wake of spending cuts by P&G. MMK+ includes talent from OPRG agencies Ketchum, Porter Novelli, FleishmanHillard and Marina Maher Communications.  

"P&G is going through quite a rationalization of budgets and their global market spend, and one of the casualties of that is there is not as much budget for planning, and tough choices had to be made," Kelly said. 

He explained that some of his P&G work informed the approach he is taking in his new venture. "What P&G understands better than most is that people don’t consume media in the same way anymore," Kelly said. "They don’t watch adds or watch commercials as much as they used to."

The answer, he said, is to start with an earned-media-first approach to branding campaigns. "You have to discover what is inherently interesting from the get-go and then start putting earned in the core from the get-go," Kelly explained. "It’s not a revolutionary concept, obviously...But most agencies’ set-ups won’t allow it to work. It’s a question of emphasis and prioritization, and there is still a residual prejudice that PR or earned media shouldnt be the driving force in the formulation of the big idea."

Kelly is positioning the shop as a strategic consultancy because of his focus on earned-media-driving campaigns. He is bringing on staff on a permanent or as-needed basis. 

"My ambition is to get in at the early stages to help formulate that thinking while paying attention to the context culturally where the brand is operating," Kelly said, adding that he is working on projects for clients that he cannot disclose. 

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