BOSTON, March 28—Brodeur Worldwide, an international technology-focused agency owned by Omnicom, has acquired rival FitzGerald Communications. The two firms will come together to create the world’s largest high-tech PR firm, with combined 2001 revenues of $92.8 million and more than 600 employees.
FitzGerald will continue to operate under its own brand and its current leadership, including founder and president Maura FitzGerald, although Brodeur chief executive Andy Carney says the new agency will draw on the resources of both firms—as well as the previously acquired Beaupre & Company—to create best teams for clients.
The acquisition will add considerable geographic coverage for Brodeur, which is strong in Boston and has a substantial presence in Stamford and Washington, D.C., but has never really cracked the west coast. FitzGerald, in addition to its Boston headquarters, has a strong operation in San Francisco—led by Hill & Knowlton and Fleishman-Hillard veteran John Berard—as well as offices in New York and D.C.
“Maura FitzGerald has built a great company and her firm was one of the few that kept growing last year, in what was a terrible year for the tech business,” says Carney. “In addition to two strong brands coming together, this really beefs up our geographic presence and gives us a strong presence in northern California, which we have never really had before.”
While the San Francisco office of FitzGerald will continue, like the rest of the firm, to operate under its own name, it will also provide a platform for Brodeur to expand its branded presence on the west coast. The agency recently transferred Zanku Armenian from its Washington office to the Bay Area to take over as head of the western region, and he will move into the FitzGerald office there and assume management of offices in Phoenix and Utah.
Meanwhile, the Washington operations will complement each other, according to Carney. Brodeur has been focused on issues management and public affairs in the capital, for clients such as Travelocity, while FitzGerald’s office is a more traditional high-tech PR operation.
As for the identity strategy, Carney says there are good reasons to maintain the separate brands. “It’s partly about conflicts and it’s partly about common sense. If you try to squish two firms together, people start worrying about things like where they fit in and who they report to. We see some benefits from working together on professional development, for example, but we also see advantages to keeping the companies separate.”
Having said that, Brodeur might draw on the resources of both FitzGerald and Beaupre to build the best teams possible for major clients.
“Until last year, we found that clients stratified themselves,” says Carney. “Beaupre tended to work with smaller, more entrepreneurial companies that wanted the personal touch of working with an agency founder, while Brodeur focused more on larger companies like IBM and Philips. But after last year, the sweet spot for all of us is the midrange client, and we want to be able to draw on the expertise of all our people for those clients.”
FitzGerald’s role will not change dramatically, at least initially. She will focus on continuing to build FitzGerald, although she will also serve on the Brodeur executive committee.