Like the media they court, the entertainment PR ranks have become a lot more splintered this past year. In December, Interpublic Group merged its PMK and BNC praiseries, setting off a wave of defections and new alliances, with Simon Halls joining former PMK-HBH partners Stephen Huvane and Robin Baum at Slate PR while Jennifer Allen and Melissa Kates formed Viewpoint. The dust had barely settled last month when Matt Labov departed BWR to go solo, taking his roster of comedy powerhouses with him.

Before the latest wave, indie film praisers Lee Ginsberg and Chris Libby left large agencies to create their own shingle. And it’s not over yet — publicists expect more agency fallout in coming months. “I think we’ll see a lot more, actually,” says Libby, who left BWR eight months ago. “It will be going on all year,” speculates Tony Angellotti, a nominee for the Les Mason honor at today’s Publicists Awards.

Angellotti, an Oscar consultant with his own firm, says that the downsizing of mega-agencies “should come as a surprise to no one,” given studio cutbacks and the fee-based biz model many of them rely upon. Studios are releasing fewer titles and have fewer production deals; less money is being spent on DVD campaigns as sales drop. The recession is only exacerbating those trends.

Libby says that tough economic conditions alleviated his concerns about starting his own company. Rents are cheaper, for one thing, and “the cost of doing business on a small scale is very advantageous,” he points out.

But when you get right down to it, he and Ginsberg, a former PMK-er, simply were looking to create their own corporate culture and focus on clients they care about.

Labov, promoted to co-prexy of BWR in January, left the agency a month later to embark on a new chapter in his career. He took with him various clients, including Jack Black, Steve Carell, Jay Roach and Seth Rogen, much the way Halls et al. brought their big name PMK-HBH clients to Slate PR.

That’s the thing about these PR moves: The company names may have changed, but publicists’ rosters have pretty much stayed the same. “There’s a lot of movement among the companies, but not among the clients,” says Stan Rosenfield, a talent PR veteran with his own firm and also a Les Mason nominee. Boutique agencies have always been able to tout a more hands-on approach. But with all of these shifts, expect some to start becoming the new biggies.

Among the studio and network ranks, some publicity teams have become more creative. Henri Bollinger, who heads the Publicists Awards, cites the campaigns for “Paranormal Activity” and “The Hangover,” both nominated for Maxwell Weinberg kudos, as two examples. The cast of “Hangover” was not well known, he points out, yet they were booked on morning and evening shows. Par leveraged awareness for microbudgeted “Paranormal” online, he notes, as did Fox for “Avatar,” a fellow nominee with a much larger promotional budget.


What: 47th
Publicist Awards

When: Friday – reception 11 a.m.,
lunch noon, kudos 12:50-2 p.m.

Where: Hyatt Regency Century Plaza