Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Why Stay Independent?

Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Why Stay Independent?

Article excerpt

WHY STAY INDEPENDENT?

In 1978, four of the top five public relations firms were independents. So were 39 of the top 50. In every sense, independent firms dominated the profession. In sheer numbers, they still do. They fill the Yellow Pages and the rosters of professional associations. And of the top 50 firms in terms of annual revenue, as ranked in O'Dwyer's 1988 directory, about 30 are still independent.

But that figure is misleading. Eight of the top 10 firms are owned by other companies or ad agencies. (Although Shandwick defines itself as a network of independent agencies, and is listed as an independent in the directory, I number it among "owned" firms because I feel that its status as a true independent is questionable.)* Taken together, the fee income of the top three "owned" firms--Hill and Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller and the units comprising the Shandwick group--are far greater than those of the 76 largest independent firms combined.

Because larger firms are invited to pitch more accounts, and because the revenue gap between large and small has been widening, independent firms of all sizes have felt enormous pressure to sell, merge, affiliate, or create or join networks. Anything to look larger or be larger. …

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