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The new UPC ad campaign

The new UPC ad campaign

Mick O'Keeffe of Pembroke Communications

Mick O'Keeffe of Pembroke Communications

Jason Clarke Photography

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The new UPC ad campaign

Client conflict will not pose a problem for a PR firm which sees the coming together of two of Ireland's leading agencies next month, the chief executive of the new group says. Pembroke Communications and Slattery Communications will merge to form PSG - four agencies providing consumer, corporate, sponsorship, digital and public affairs services.

Former Dublin GAA footballer Mick O'Keeffe, below, who's 38, is teaming up with Clareman Padraig Slattery (58), who is also his father-in-law, to handle various blue chip clients, some of which are direct competitors. For starters, Slattery handles Toyota, while Audi is a Pembroke client. Pembroke looks after Setanta Sports/BT Sports, while Slattery bats for Sky.

But O'Keeffe said there is no reason why PR cannot operate along similar lines to how some media groups with agency clusters service rival brands. "It's accepted practice among agency groups like Core Media," O'Keeffe told Ad Lib, "so why should it be any different for PR?" But just to be sure, he got the best in professional trading practice advice from Accenture.

The Dubliner, who at 17 was offered a three-year deal with Middlesbrough FC and had trials with Manchester City, Spurs and Tranmere Rovers, and who later played for Shamrock Rovers, signed a MBO 'transfer' deal from Publicis earlier this year. While O'Keeffe believes the PR business needs scale and specialist expertise to prosper, realpolitik also points to more consolidation. He sees more agency mergers as being inevitable.

PSG group will comprise four agencies, and O'Keeffe expects two more standalone divisions to be trading by the first quarter of 2015. Media training along the lines of Carr Communications and Unique Media is planned with a new studio being built at the group's Montrose offices.

Padraig Slattery, who now becomes PSG's executive chairman, has worked for the IRFU for many years. The group's sports connections are numerous. O'Keeffe's first job was working with Bill O'Herlihy where one of his clients was the Irish Sports Council. When he left to join Pembroke, his boss Colm Cronin was in his 60s and opportunity knocked loudly.

He was soon given the job to run the agency by the Publicis board, led by Padraig Moran, just recently retired.

O'Keeffe is the first to admit how lucky he has been, helped along with hard graft. Despite being in PR for over a decade, he describes himself as "a non-PR person in the PR world".

PSG's 35 executives will have some top clients to work alongside brands like Allianz, Bord Gais, Meteor, Peter Mark, Leinster Rugby, Microsoft, Subway, the GAA and Dublin Zoo.

PSG will see former Three mobile PR manager Graeme Slattery (no relation) take charge of consumer, with Alan Tyrrell managing corporate needs. The group has hired Cathy Madden to look after public affairs. She was communications adviser to former Labour Party leader and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore. She was also a news reporter at Newstalk for three years.

Battle to land lucrative UPC creative business

Interest is mounting as to what will happen to the UPC creative and media buying business. The Liberty Global-owned TV and broadband provider has lined up local agencies to pitch for its creative work, currently handled by Irish International.

As well as the incumbent, Cawley Nea\TBWA, Ogilvy and Publicis are set to give it a go. UPC's head of brand and marketing communications, Meadhbh Quinn, will also see London agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), which handles Liberty Global's Virgin Media in the UK, present. Agencies have been given time to fine-tune ideas as presentations are not due until November.

While the creative review is largely a home exercise, UPC is also asking media agencies to pitch for its buying and planning from further afield. All the major media groups, from WPP to Publicis, are in the running. Carat in Dublin was asked to pitch for the Irish business a few years back and it managed to retain the account.

For Carat CEO Ciaran Cunningham and his agency colleagues in Monkstown the matter is largely out of their hands. They will be hoping Japanese owner Dentsu Aegis can do them a favour, or a valuable client may well end up going elsewhere.

UPC has a new €2m TV, radio and print campaign focusing on its sponsorship of Barclays Premier League coverage on Newstalk's Off the Ball show. Created by Irish International with media buying by Carat, the ads feature models Joshua Hayes and Orion Ben.

Christmas toys could be in store at Arnotts

Temperatures may soon dip but as Christmas nears things are hotting up on the department store front. Ad Lib hears that Arnotts plans to stock toys soon with all the top brands on show, including Lego and Mattel. What is becoming more like Ireland's answer to Harrods, Arnotts has rolled out its new Wonder loyalty card (inset). The store's perennial oval-shaped logo may soon be sidelined for the more chic look created by its Javelin agency.

Michael Cullen is editor of Marketing.ie magazine; cullen@marketing.ie

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