The dominance of the PR industry by an elite of ’supergroups’
continued apace this week with the long awaited sale of International
Public Relations (IPR) - the group formerly known as Shandwick
International - to US marketing group Interpublic. The pounds 104
million all-share deal confirms Interpublic’s PR empire as the second
largest PR group in the world.
The union has great potential. IT-driven Weber PR Worldwide,
Interpublic’s existing PR group, can turn Lord Chadlington’s vision of a
technologically-linked global operation into a reality, while IPR will
provide the global reach craved by Weber.
It remains to be seen whether the proposed relocation of IPR’s
management to New York will lead to fewer international accounts being
co-ordinated from the UK. But it would mean that the UK industry will
lose one of its few senior ambassadors. As founder of the UK’s largest
independent company Chadlington is something of an institution in his
own right. By stepping up to the new umbrella management board, he is
also making way for IPR’s transition from a first generation
personality-led consultancy to a next generation institutionalised one.
The transition is not an easy one. Companies such as Burson-Marsteller
and Hill and Knowlton, which have reinvented themselves, have succeeded
because of the longevity of their senior management.
While the consultancy world continues to cannibalise itself in a bid to
secure expertise, consultancies ready to cut the umbilical cord are in
danger of finding themselves sans successors who are sufficiently
steeped in the companies brand values to carry it forward.