Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Joining Forces Flurry of Mergers Marks Pittsburgh Marketing Industry

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Joining Forces Flurry of Mergers Marks Pittsburgh Marketing Industry

Article excerpt

The elevators work hard at Campos Inc.'s office on the Boulevard of the Allies. The marketing research firm runs two shifts so staff can work into the evening adding to the list of more than 20,000 people willing to respond to questionnaires. There are also regular arrivals of those recruited to participate in focus groups in two rooms tailored for that research.

And now the movement of people through the firm includes a change in leadership at the top, as founder Yvonne Campos sold the business at the end of last year to A.J. Drexler, former president and lead strategist at ad agency Big Picture Communications. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

"It's all about timing," said Ms. Campos in a recent interview as she and Ms. Drexler talked about the changes in recent months that included the absorption of the clients of a longtime competitor, Station Square-based marketing research firm Direct Feedback -- an opportunity that turned up in the midst of the Campos transition process.

Whether it's a response to dramatic changes in how marketing is being done or an indication of a generational shift in the Pittsburgh business community, the timing lately has been right for mergers and acquisitions.

In December, two South Side agencies -- Gatesman+Dave Inc. and Quest Fore Marketing -- announced plans to create a single agency under the Gatesman name with more than $13 million in agency revenue and about 80 people on staff. John Gatesman, Dave Kwasnick and Shannon Baker would be the principal partners, while Quest Fore CEO Ken Cuccinelli moved to a consulting role. Quest Fore was founded in 1976, while Gatesman opened in 2006.

A month earlier, Downtown-based agency Fitting Group was absorbed by Bloomfield small business consulting firm C-leveled, creating a combined company with about 30 employees. Fitting Group was founded in 1986 by Andrea Fitting.

Campos was founded in 1986, too, and Ms. Campos had been looking at exit strategies for a number of years, talking to people in town about potential deals. "Either the timing wasn't right or the relationship wasn't right," she said.

This time things did work out. The brand can continue and the staff of about 15 full-time professionals can keep their jobs. Ms. Campos is sticking around for a while, too.

Gatesman+Dave began talking with the Quest Fore management about a possible merger last summer, said Mr. Gatesman. "The more we talked, the more we started to realize how good a fit this was."

Quest Fore was particularly appealing for its technology group, which Mr. Gatesman called "a real gem." And clients of QuestFore now have access to services such as public relations and social media that Gatesman+Dave offers. …

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