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Travers Collins is acquired by Martin Group

Travers Collins & Co., a well-known Buffalo advertising and public relations firm, has been acquired by the Martin Group, a branding and marketing company owned by a former protégé of Travers Collins’ co-founders.

A handful of public relations employees will move to the new firm, and co-founder William M. Collins will stay on into the fall as a senior consultant to help with the transition.

Tod D. Martin, founder and owner of the Martin Group, said the acquisition “gives the firm an immediate injection of credibility and much deeper expertise in the public relations category.”

Martin served as vice president and creative director for Travers Collins before leaving to form the Martin Group in 2001.

Martin said that co-founders Collins and Robert N. Travers continued to mentor him, even after he left to form his own agency, and that they always stayed in touch.

“Bill decided he wanted an exit strategy,” Martin said. “We talked a lot over the years, and the time has come to pass off the baton to a friend.”

Collins said he is not ready to retire and that, after he is done at the Martin Group, he will continue working, possibly in public relations or marketing and communications at a nonprofit.

“Over the years, I don’t know how many times people have said to me, ‘Bill, if you ever want to get out of the agency business … ,’ ” Collins said. “It’s exciting to see what’s next.”

Travers retired from Travers Collins earlier this year. He headed the advertising side of the agency, while Collins handled public relations.

“Without Bob there to run the advertising, I thought maybe I was taking on more than I wanted to chew, and that’s what got me thinking about this whole thing,” Collins said.

Over the next few weeks, Travers Collins will close its headquarters in the Larkin Building and sell off its furniture and equipment.

Until now, the Martin Group has primarily focused on branding and marketing and offered public relations “as an add-on, on an as-needed basis.”

The Travers Collins staff being retained are public relations professionals. Martin said he is evaluating the rest of the staff, which includes digital and Web developers, creative employees and administrators for redundancies within its current staff.

Among Travers Collins’ advertising and public relations clients are ADPRO Sports, Catholic Charities, Independent Health, Paul William Beltz PC, Phillips Lytle LLP, the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, the Seneca Nation of Indians, the Weinberg Campus and the YMCA of Buffalo Niagara. Martin did not disclose which of those clients will stay with the Martin Group.

Collins said that he has been speaking with clients and that they have been “very receptive” and “unbelievably supportive” of the change.

Among the Travers Collins employees that the Martin Group will keep on staff are Richard D. Shaner Jr., Susan L. Asquith and Sharon M. Linstedt in public relations; public relations account manager Angelina L. Ezzo and public relations account coordinator Sarah DiPofi. Other staffers “will be considered as the agency evaluates its needs,” the Martin Group said in a release.

At the time of the sale, Travers Collins had about 15 employees. At its peak, Travers Collins employed roughly 40 people.

The Martin Group recently moved to new offices at 477 Main St. and opened an office in Rochester. Some of its clients include the Buffalo Bills, Erie County Medical Center, Evans Bank, Kaleida Health, New Era Cap Co., Orville’s Home Appliances and Seneca Gaming Corp. Before the acquisition, it employed 38.

The co-founders formed Travers Collins when they acquired their share of the agency known as Schutte Travers Collins & Schutte in 1995. That firm began in 1990, when Travers and Collins departed Buffalo’s Levy, King & White agency (now Eric Mower + Associates) to join the Schutte Group.

Travers Collins went through upheaval in September 2011 when its investor relations department surprised the firm’s leaders by leaving. Two of the employees who left launched Casteel Schoenborn, an Amherst-based investor relations and corporate communications firm, taking some of Travers Collins’ clients.

And in January, Travers Collins laid off six workers due to reduced spending by some large clients.”

Charles D. Lindsey, associate marketing professor at the University at Buffalo School of Management, said acquisitions are “par for the course” across almost every industry today and that public relations is no exception.

“Usually these types of things happen when a firm is seeking an advantage in an area and there’s another firm out there that has an expertise and name the acquiring firm wants,” Lindsey said. “Travers Collins has quite a bit of expertise in the PR area, and the Martin Group is looking to solidify its expertise in that area, so from that perspective, this makes sense.”

The demise of Travers Collins & Co. sent ripples through the Buffalo Niagara public relations community.

“It really is a new day for PR in Buffalo now,” said Matt Davison, owner of AMDG Public Affairs. “Bill was a bit of a local icon in our industry. A good majority of PR folks in Buffalo came up through the Travers Collins ranks.”