Fashion

Why Fashion’s Biggest PR Firms Keep Getting Bigger

ProDentim

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Another day, another acquisition for The Independents.

The fashion PR and production company is acquiring Ctzar, an agency focused on social media and influencer marketing, the buyer told BoF.

Ctzar joins The Independents’ rapidly growing portfolio that includes everything from influencer marketing to event production. The Paris-based company, operator of fashion-focused PR firm Karla Otto, bought influencer marketing company Lefty in April 2021, event production company Bureau Betak in September 2021 and Prodject, l creative agency behind the Met Gala, in March. In June, the company raised $400 million with the stated goal of continuing its wave of acquisitions and doubling in size by 2025. The goal is to build a network that provides customers with solutions for their wide range press needs.

“With our ecosystem, everyone continues to be an expert in their field and to develop [their business]“said Isabelle Chouvet, founder and CEO of Les Indépendants. “At the same time, they are inspired by others in the group, and they push the limits with the support of others.”

Although The Independents has been the most prolific, it’s not the only PR player shopping around. The Lede Company, the entertainment-focused agency best known for representing the likes of Rihanna, has been making more fashion inroads recently. Last month, it acquired Olivier Bourgis Communication and Marketing, or OBCM, a Paris-based agency with clients including Adidas and Browns.

The trading activity reflects an acceleration of change in the industry that dates back a decade or more, when social media began to reshape the business and actors, athletes and musicians began to take a more disciplined approach to their fashion projects. As lines have blurred between celebrities, influencers, designers and entrepreneurs, the nature of public relations has also evolved, with social media influence and influencer relations complementing – and increasingly, supplanting – traditional press placements. Pharrell Williams’ debut for Louis Vuitton in June – produced in part by Lede and OBCM – illustrates how intertwined fashion, social media and entertainment are.

“We are in a moment of transition,” said Alexandre de Betak, the founder of Bureau Betak and now the creative chairman of The Independents. “The traditional means of communication through press relations have certainly evolved… press relations are no longer just press relations. We are reinventing all aspects of the business.

Why are fashion PR firms increasing their mergers and acquisitions?

It is difficult for a small independent agency to offer such a wide range of services, even when it has strong ties to fashion and the media. Some well-known names in the industry have closed, including Black Frame and Siren PR, both of which closed in 2020.

Some companies are expanding their offerings to keep up, launching new divisions dedicated to areas like affiliate marketing or sustainability. For businesses that have cash, it may be faster to acquire an agency that is already in a new market, whether it’s a particular city or country, or a function. , such as influencer marketing.

For acquired companies, being under the umbrella of a larger agency provides greater operational capabilities, logistical support and more, such as access to legal and human resources services from a greater business. Likewise, it exposes them to a different business, where they can draw on expertise they may not already have in-house.

Olivier Bourgis, for example, has traditionally worked with fashion-centric clients, while The Lede Company’s historical expertise lies in entertainment PR. Bringing the two together, Bourgis said, will help him further develop the celebrity-relations side of his own business.

“We work very organically with our celebrities, so I think working with them can help you turn that into a more strategic approach,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bourgis, with his pre-existing connections in luxury fashion and particularly in Paris, offered Lede the opportunity to create a market presence overnight. Thomas Silve, founder of Ctzar, added that working with The Independents gives his small agency a wider reach and access to teams on the ground in areas where Ctzar has not previously had a presence, such as Hong Kong.

“The fact that we can benefit from the experience of the best in class in the market, it is incredible for us, because we can accelerate our objectives,” said Silve.

What do these offers mean for customers?

Consolidation is likely to lead to even greater consolidation as it becomes more difficult for the remaining independent agencies to compete with the full-service giants.

For clients, it can be mixed: Brands will have fewer options when planning fashion shows, and celebrities might carry less clout when they only have a handful of companies able to plan shows. sponsorship deals, product lines or large-scale events.

Companies like The Lede and The Independents say they will continue to manage their acquisitions as quasi-standalone businesses; customers will have the same options, but with better resources and with a more global reach.

“People just bring together the best possible agency partners who have a very similar common vision, so instead of maybe competing with each other, you’re actually working hand in hand,” said Christine Lu, co-CEO of The Compagnie Lede.

Chouvet added that it creates a more cohesive experience for customers when they can go to one large holding company for their services, rather than contracting several small, unrelated boutique companies.

“These big fashion and luxury groups need consolidation. They can’t keep informing 15 agencies around the world to deliver something consistent,” she said. that we bring to them, to have this agility and this expertise, to have the footprint and the ability to be consistent, but always local everywhere.”

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