LOS ANGELES: Rogers & Cowan PMK cut staff by 10% on Tuesday in response to economic pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thirty-five staffers were let go across offices in Los Angeles, New York and London, according to sources at the entertainment communications shop. The firm had 350 employees in 2019, including 300 in the U.S., according to PRWeek’s Agency Business Report 2020. Rogers & Cowan was combined with fellow Interpublic Group entertainment shop PMK-BNC last year.
“We had a lot of momentum going into the start of COVID-19,” said CEO Mark Owens. “We had new wins from last year and colleagues who joined us from PMK. There was a lot of momentum from a good year. For us, it was, as [chairman] Cindi Berger said, a heartbreaking, difficult-to-make decision. We were waiting as long as possible to really understand the marketplace and only took the action of layoffs [Tuesday].”
Owens explained that the reductions affected parts of the agency focused on the hardest-hit sectors of the entertainment business.
“The parts of the entertainment industry that have been severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak include things such as red carpets, fashion, certain live events and experiential much more than content, much more than talent representation and much more than brand comms,” he said. “The choices we made were to look at the areas of the business that were the strongest and the areas of the business that were most challenged and make a strategic decision.”
The agency represents brands as well as athletes and celebrities. It lists clients such as McDonald's, Verizon, Cisco, Red Bull and Heineken on its website.
Owens said the firm’s diverse client base saved it from the fate of other entertainment PR shops like BWR, which was folded into BCW last week.
“We are very, very diversified, and there is a lot of talent, content, brand and influencer work that is still being done,” he said.
Owens said he is hopeful that this week’s cutbacks should be enough to get Rogers & Cowan PMK through the crisis.
“If you ask me today, we do feel good that we made the right decision strategically to set us up for 2021,” he said. “God willing, when it comes to the pandemic and the economy, things will get more stable, and as long as they’re more stable we’re all good.”
The agency, he added, is keeping an eye on events scheduled for the end of the year to measure if the entertainment business is rebounding. Owens said the firm is monitoring Coachella and major awards shows such as the Emmys in September and the Academy Awards and Grammys next year.
“Getting into the window of summer, those decisions have to be green-lit and positive for media people and broadcast partners,” he added. “Probably a tent pole about what is happening in the music space is whether Coachella will occur in October, or if that’s a pipe dream.”
Rogers & Cowan PMK followed other firms in Interpublic Group’s Constituency Management Group in reducing staff. Golin, Weber Shandwick, DeVries Global and Current Global have all laid off staff. Representatives from the Axis Agency referred questions about possible staff cuts to Weber, and a Weber representative declined to say if the Los Angeles-based multicultural shop reduced headcount.
Executives from CMG and Interpublic have said the holding company has left decisions about job cuts up to individual agencies and geographies.
CMG posted revenue of $307.6 million in Q1, up 3.7% organically from last year, with its PR shops up by low-single-digit increases on both an organic and as reported basis. Organic growth represents change in revenue without taking into account the impact of acquisitions or disposals.
Net revenue for IPG in Q1 was $1.97 billion, down 1.6% from the prior year on an as-reported basis, but representing organic net revenue growth of 0.3%. Net income was $4.7 million, compared with a loss of $8 million a year ago.