Global PR: Consolidating PR for global consistency - The globalisation of business sees more organisations seeking to consolidate their PR in a bid to guarantee consistency of messages and a more ’holistic’ and harmonious approach

Dutch-based electronics giant Philips is in the process of consolidating its PR agency relationships in a bid to increase the consistency of its brand communications across key markets. Porter Novelli International, encompassing hi-tech specialist Brodeur Worldwide, has been appointed to handle PR in ten European countries.

Dutch-based electronics giant Philips is in the process of

consolidating its PR agency relationships in a bid to increase the

consistency of its brand communications across key markets. Porter

Novelli International, encompassing hi-tech specialist Brodeur

Worldwide, has been appointed to handle PR in ten European

countries.



After a similar review on the other side of the Atlantic last year,

Philips hired Brodeur Porter Novelli and Ketchum PR Worldwide in the US.

The moves reflect a desire by Philips to reduce the number of its

agencies: in 1997 it employed 80 agencies on either a project or

retained basis.



Philips is by no means the only major corporation to see advantages in

consolidation. On 13 January this year, software company Oracle

announced it had selected Avalanche PR as its global PR firm to operate

in 55 countries.



Avalanche is a joint venture created especially to handle the Oracle

account and comprises three PR consultancies: independent hi-tech

specialist Cunningham Communication and WPP-owned businesses Hill and

Knowlton and Ogilvy PR Worldwide.



Technology businesses have recently been leading the way in

consolidating their PR into regional agencies, although Hill and

Knowlton has also been retained by Kellogg as its exclusive agency in

European, Middle East and African markets.



Brodeur A Plus managing director Mike Copland believes technology

companies are taking the lead on consolidation because their move into

the high street and the volatility of their industry is forcing them to

reassess their messages. He says: ’Their messages can be quite complex

and the issues and technology that underline their companies change

quite a lot. They need to find consistent messages to bind those changes

together.’



But Hill and Knowlton president and chief executive for Europe, the

Middle East and Africa Paul Taaffe argues that while clients are

increasingly looking to exploit the advantages of working with networks

internationally, none of the main agency players has the resources yet

to provide uniform service quality across the globe.



’There is no network in the world that has the best agency in every

country in the world,’ says Taaffe.



He adds: ’Consolidation is tending to mean fewer agencies rather than a

single agency. It gives clients buying power, more information-sharing

and the opportunity for longer term relationships.’



This is the case with Philips, which will retain key local agencies in

addition to Porter Novelli and Brodeur. Bell Pottinger Good Relations,

for example, will continue to act for Philips in the UK.



The globalisation of business is a factor driving the consolidation of

agency relationships by clients. But it is not the only factor.



’Consolidation highlights that clients are starting to analyse more

closely their exact needs from PR and are being more objectives-led and

strategically focused,’ says Text 100 director mainland Europe Carlo

Creighton.



’It’s something that is more of a business trend than an economic one.

Clients want a clearer structure in terms of agency partnerships. They

want it to be more direct and transparent.’



Consolidation is happening on a national as well as regional or global

level. In 1997, ICL used 14 agencies in the UK. Given that this was at a

time when it was refocusing its business away from hardware sales into

the provision of IT systems and solutions, there was concern that there

could be confusion in the marketplace with so many agencies working for

different business units.



This year, ICL has cut the number of agencies to three. Firefly has been

given the corporate brief for the whole of ICL while Grayling and

Financial Dynamics have specialist roles (respectively, retail systems

and issues related to ICL’s proposed flotation in two years time).



’The company has changed but our image has lagged somewhat behind

reality,’ says ICL head of media and PR Neil Pattie. ’To put a truer

picture across we need to control our messages better. It’s imperative

that our PR messages are consistent’



Although ICL’s approach is primarily about ensuring message consistency

there are also budgetary implications in what it has done. Pattie

insists that the reduction in agencies will save pounds 200,000 a

year.



There are also other efficiencies to be made. ’If you’ve got ten

agencies, you’ve got ten learning curves,’ says Firefly director Mark

Mellor. ’And each agency is ultimately trying to get as much of the

client’s business as it can.’



The nature of communications today, and in particular the speed with

which information can be disseminated on the internet, has led many

clients to strengthen relationships with agencies as a means of

safeguarding their own reputations. Pressures on management time make it

impossible for clients to do this with a large number of agencies.



Therefore the likelihood is that we will see further consolidation in

the future. This need not mean, however, that smaller agencies will

always lose out. Some clients may choose to follow the approach of IBM,

which has Ogilvy PR Worldwide acting as a lead agency which co-ordinates

the work of ’best of breed’ agencies in local markets.



Copland says that consolidation in whatever form will grow because faced

with ’more dynamic and volatile’ markets companies increasingly seek to

bring a more ’holistic and harmonious’ approach to bear on their

marketing.



The chances are that this will favour larger agencies and those that are

part of a significant network.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.