Hearst beats ad agencies to iCrossing, UK agencies venture into PR

Cheque books are being dusted off all over adland but not in time to land US search marketing agency iCrossing which has been snapped up by magazine and newspaper giant Hearst Corporation from under the noses of Omnicom, WPP and, surprisingly Dentsu.

Meanwhile two of the brighter UK creative agencies, Beattie McGuinness Bungay and Karmarama have both announced that they are to set up their own PR agencies.

ICrossing boss Don Seales says he was attracted by the opportunity to become the hub of all things digital at the newly-formed Hearst Marketing Services rather than be added to a big agency group’s digital collection.

The $325m Hearst paid was no doubt an attraction too, for a business that turns over $121m.

The move by creative agencies into PR is also interesting, the two activities seem to be coming closer together if PR hero Matthew Freud’s recent boasts about inventing ad campaigns for Walkers are true.

It’s undoubtedly true that marketing expenditure is becoming increasingly event-driven, witness the current rash of expensive TV ad campaigns around the World Cup.

PR is the ultimate event-driven activity. It has also gained in importance recently as clients of all ilks are faced with a 24/7 news agenda that can carry them from triumph to disaster in the space of a few hours.

BMB and Karmarama are still minnows in the big pond of marcomms and BMB has been on the shopping list of numerous agency groups over the past few years, including creative director Trevor Beattie’s alma mater Omnicom-owned TBWA.

Trev is as much a PR man as an agency creative of course, becoming very famous very quickly for newsworthy campaigns like ‘hello boys’ for Wonderbra.

As for Karamarama it now has the pushy and able Nicola Mendelsohn running the show who’s probably a PR lady at heart too.

It would be nice if such agencies prove to be serious about growing their own businesses rather than taking the agency group shilling.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.