The merger of two Hollywood publicity agencies was designed as a marriage of celebrity clients and corporate brands.
In order to make the marriage work, however, the two firms had to learn to live with each other.
PMK/HBH, a publicity shop with Hollywood A-list clients, merged with BNC, a product placement and brand promotion agency, at the beginning of this year. Both companies were units of Interpublic Group, an advertising conglomerate based in New York.
The new company, named PMK BNC, was designed to create a “powerhouse” agency that would help corporations use entertainment and pop culture to “connect with consumers,” according to the merger announcement.
“What’s wonderful here is the marriage of consumer brands and entertainment,” said Michael Nyman, chairman and co-CEO of PMK BNC. “The marriage can take many forms from endorsements, personal appearances, product placement, created events or sponsorships.”
PMK BNC has an impressive pedigree. The “K” in PMK came from Pat Kingsley, the now-retired grand dame of Hollywood publicists, famously nicknamed “Dr. No” because of her tight control of access to stars. The “B” in BNC was Howard Bragman, who now runs Fifteen Minutes, another Hollywood publicity firm, and is oft quoted as a spokesman for PR celebrity culture.
The combined agency has 165 employees on both coasts, with about 100 in the West Hollywood headquarters and the remainder in New York. Its client list features 280 celebrities, ranging from contemporary stars Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens to mature artists such as Jane Fonda, Robert Redford and even the estate of John Lennon.
On the corporate side, PMK BNC represents more than 50 companies including T-Mobile, Activision, Target, Hasbro and Audi.
Although the agencies came to the merger with different expertise, they dabbled in each other’s business enough to consider themselves rivals. Both had similar corporate cultures, but being a personal publicist for a celebrity is much different than working on the Audi account. The main challenge facing the company is educating each side about the other.
That happens every Monday, when the company holds a meeting where 20 to 30 managers bring each other up to date on what they’re doing.
That said, the agency remains divided into two main divisions, entertainment and consumer brands. Cindi Berger, a veteran PMK publicist, is chairwoman and chief executive of the entertainment division; Chris Robichaud holds the same title for the consumer brand operation. Nyman, the “N” in BNC, is responsible for oversight of the entire company.
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