LOS ANGELES, October 24—Independent entertainment public relations firms have been falling like dominoes in recent years, with PMK Public Relations selling out to McCann, BRW becoming part of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, and Bragman Nyman Cafarelli joining the growing Weber Shandwick Worldwide empire. Through it all, Bender/Helper Impact has remained steadfast in its independence.
Sensing an opportunity to create a new niche for itself, the firm started to target the convergence market two years ago, looking to exploit the increasing synergies between the entertainment industry and the technology sector. Now—as it celebrates its 15th anniversary—the firm has undertaken a restructuring that will help it concentrate on four areas: home entertainment, digital entertainment, consumer products, and interactive entertainment.
“We decided to return to our roots, which is the business side of the entertainment industry,” says founding partner Dean Bender, who adds that 10 to 20 percent of the firm’s income in 1999 came from the dot-com sector. The firm currently has income of around $6.5 million from offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.
Shawna Lynch, a 13-year agency veteran and senior vice president, will lead the home entertainment practice. It represents clients including 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, MGM Home Entertainment, and Pioneer Entertainment. Lynch will also lead the consumer products group, which represents a wide range of entertainment properties through clients including 20th Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising, Mattel, MGM Consumer Products and Warner Bros.
Steve Honig, formerly head of the firm’s corporate entertainment group, will lead the new digital entertainment practice, where clients include Dolby, Roxio, LG Electronics, and Discreet. John Foster has been promoted to VP and will lead the new interactive entertainment practice, with clients including Universal Interactive, Konami of America, Codemasters, and Ubisoft.
The firm has also promoted Jeff Klein to general manager of its New York office, which serves clients including Marvel Enterprises, Scholastic Entertainment, USA Home Entertainment, QVC’s Q Video, and IFC Films.
Meanwhile, the firm’s EMbizImpact unit will continue to focus on broader business and strategic consulting.
“We found ourselves sitting down with clients and I would be thinking about media relations but there were other challenges they were facing,” says Bender. “They were thinking about business development issues and expansion, about strategic partnerships and mergers and acquisitions, and we realized we could help them with those issues.”
The EMbizImpact unit is headed by the firm’s other founding partner, Lee Helper.
“Originally we built our business on the basis of expertise and relationships that were established over a significant period of time in the entertainment business community,” says Helper. “That gives us a lot of insight into where business is going and what the trends are, and it helps us understand how different businesses work together or could work together.”