Jul 11

Let the seller beware

Abby Ellin’s article in yesterday’s Times re-reminded me why I love owning an independent public relations firm.Regret

Her article, entitled “After Selling the Company, Remorse” profiles a number of entrepreneurs who, having sold their companies, rued their lives reporting to parent companies.

The public relations world is littered with the debris of acquisitions gone bad. I know many, many erstwhile entrepreneurs who tell riveting, post-acquisition horror stories.

Don’t get me wrong: the buyer isn’t always to blame. Most mergers and acquisitions fail because of culture clashes. The other obvious problem occurs when the former entrepreneur finds himself shackled to new and strange rules and regulations. And, hey, after years of being the boss, it’s tough to take orders.

I’m hard pressed to think of one truly successful acquisition in the PR world. Sure, some are still in effect, years after the transaction. But, I can’t think of a single ‘seller’ whose image and reputation has improved as a result of a parent company’s acquisition. The latter like to ‘sweeten’ the acquisition talks by enumerating the various cross-selling opportunities within the holding company structure. But, when I speak with friends who have sold to the WPPs, Omnicoms and Interpublics, I hear the exact opposite. In fact, I’ve been told that some firms within holding companies have become arch enemies.

So, while I’ve learned to never say never, I continue to resist the notion of Peppercom one day belonging to someone else. I know Pepper, wherever she is, feels the same way.

May 12

We love dirty laundry

Americans love gossip. The juicier, the better.  We love to see, hear and read about dirty laundry, be itTdr1
Lindsey Lohan’s, Tom Cruise’s or Steve Wick’s. Yes, the Steve Wick.

For the uniformed, Steve Wick was marketing chief at Memphis-based golf products seller True Temper and, according to industry gossip sheet par excellence, The Delaney Report, he’s "…out after only six months." Poor Steve.

The Delaney Report (TDR) is the People Magazine/Hollywood Tonight of the advertising, marketing and media worlds. It’s a great source of news, information, trends and, well, gossip (salacious or otherwise).

TDR’s back page carries a section called "Agency Rumblings." It’s not only a must read for industry patrician and plebian alike, but a career maker or breaker as well. I distinctly remember the damage a long-ago Delaney Report "rumbling" caused my now-defunct employer Earle Palmer Brown. The TDR piece about EPB’s alleged hostile work environment caused clients to call, prospects to pause and resumes to flood the street. It was a horror show.

TDR doesn’t play favorites either. They’ll bash the Interpublic Group and Time Inc alike via unnamed, inside sources. ("What IPG needs to show is two-to-three years of competitive growth, not two-to-three months," said one IPG executive. And, "Everybody expects the bloodletting to continue. There is a lot of grumbling about it," a TI source said.).

Yes, Virginia, Americans love gossip. Except, maybe, poor Steve Wick. Hey, maybe TDR needs a competitor? What about The Wick Report? Wick Illustrated? Wick World?