PS&Co merges advertising, digital and brand businesses

As the agency's formal partnership with DDB reaches its end, the new entity will take a holistic approach to brand building.

PS&Co Brand Studio Partners (1)

PS&Co Brand Studio’s owners and operating partners, from left: Rob Newell, Partner and SVP of Brand Strategy; Frank Palmer, chairman of PS&Co; Patty Jones, president; Bob Stamnes, CEO; Nicole Moore, director of HR and operations; and James Bateman, SVP and creative director.

PS&Co is dropping the DDB name from its advertising business and merging it with its PS Brand and PS Digital arms, taking the new moniker of PS&Co Brand Studio.

The move is being driven by a change that the company has recognized in the needs of its clientele – which has only further been exaggerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been most successful when we’ve worked with clients in a unifying way,” explains Rob Newell, SVP for brand strategy and now a partner in the newly-formed PS&Co Brand Studio. “We come in and find so many brands are being pulled in every direction and optimized for every different channel, and they are really losing sense of themselves. So a lot of the work we do is coming in when clients find themselves at that inflexion point where things are too hard to manage and we have to help them find their brand, and pull it back together to be more cohesive.”

In addition to Newell, the agency has also named Patty Jones, president, James Bateman, SVP and creative director, and Nicole Moore, its director of HR and operations, as owners and operating partners in the new entity. The four join Frank Palmer and Bob Stamnes in the role.

Katie Ainsworth, formerly the company’s VP and creative director, has been let go and her role phased out as “all creative leadership now falls under James Bateman,” Jones says.

The agency had an ad discipline under DDB, a brand discipline and a digital discipline, but Jones says all of those disciplines have to work together, and they weren’t necessarily structured to do that.

“It was still feeling as though things were fragmented as we worked across multiple touchpoints for our clients,” she says. “We were finding ways to unify that, and we wanted our model to match what we were doing.”

The move away from the DDB name does not mean the agency has broken its relationship with the larger network, Jones says. While “there’s no longer a formal partnership” as of July 1, “there is an ongoing agreement that we are each others’ first choice for extra support.”

The goal, by broadening the agency’s name and including “Brand” in it, is to clearly communicate that the new entity is about more than just marketing campaigns. Increasingly, the company has found itself working with more than just the CMO and marketing department, Jones adds.

“We’re developing more holistic business strategies,” she notes, adding that the agency has also worked with HR departments to see the brand position extend across the client’s business, including “through their values, employee onboarding, and various other areas.”

“This doesn’t mean that we don’t do advertising or digital anymore, because the minute we’ve figured everything out and unified it, it does need to live in the way that they go to market to consumers, in their advertising, as well as their website and experience. Ideally, it should also live in their products,” Jones explains.

The pandemic has also shifted clients’ attention internally, Newell says.

“We used to build brands through advertising and now it really is the entire experience across all touchpoints,” he says. “We’re seeing that a lack of unity bleeds through to organizational teams as well, so we’re doing more work for employer branding, because if you have a great brand that can’t be deployed by the people working on it, that’s a massive problem.”