French ad giant buys Washington PR firm

The French company Publicis Groupe has acquired Qorvis Communications, one of Washington’s more active public relations firms in politics and lobbying.

Publicis will wrap Qorvis into MSLGROUP, its strategic communications and engagement firm. Publicis is one of the world’s biggest marketing companies and is headquartered in Paris.

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Qorvis will now operate under the name of MSLGROUP in Washington with the firm’s managing partner and CEO, Michael Petruzzello, as its new president. Petruzzello will also be the agency’s North America practice director of public affairs.

Qorvis has more than 80 employees and is expected to increase Publicis’s reach into the Washington market. The firm is known for its work on behalf of foreign governments, such as Kurdistan and Saudi Arabia, which is seen as a plus by Publicis.

“This acquisition makes us much stronger in Washington D.C., and a highly engaged player in top economic, public affairs and government issues on the global stage,” said Olivier Fleurot, CEO of MSLGROUP, in a statement.

Qorvis’s influence should broaden as well under the acquisition.

“Issues no longer recognize national boundaries and the capability to manage issues and reputation demands global reach. With MSLGROUP, we will be able to expand the limits of what we can do for our clients around the world,” Petruzzello said.

Qorvis’s move to become a global firm reflects a broader shift underway in the nation’s capital.

A fledging industry that started to take off in the 1970s, Washington lobbying and public relations has become big business, raking in billions of dollars each year. Consequently, many of K Street’s biggest names are under the control of global ad agencies based overseas, such as Omnicom Group and WPP.

Publicis is set to become even bigger. Its merger with Omnicom earned approval from the European Union earlier this week.