MSL Group is the main public relations business within Publicis Groupe, created towards the end of 2009 from the merger of what was then MS&L in North America and Publicis Consultants in Europe. The business still trades as Publicis Consultants in France but most other offices adopted the MSL brand. This was the final stage in the gradual evolution of what had previously been multiple separate PR and corporate communications subsidiaries. The business was transferred into the parent group's Publicis Communications in 2015, the same year that Guillaume Herbette was appointed as CEO. He led the company for the next four years, until standing down in 2019. He was not replaced, and individual offices now report to local or regional Publicis Groupe country managers. As of 2020 MSL claimed a network of 100 offices in 40 countries, including affiliates. It is best known for consumer and healthcare PR, but also has speciality practices for corporate communications, public affairs, events & experiential and technology among other segments. Industry watcher PRovoke estimated total fee income of $450m in 2019, ranking MSL as the world's #6 PR group. PRovoke selected MSL as its North America Consumer Agency of the Year in 2020, and named the agency's Always #LikeAGirl campaign as the #1 Campaign of the Decade. MSL claims to be the #1 PR network in Europe, and is a major force in Asia, the local leader in both India and China. A handful of specialised communications agencies continue to operate under their own brands within the wider MSL umbrella. They include US financial communications giant Kekst CNC, social purpose specialist SalterBaxter and events and experiential agencies PublicisLive - founder-organisers of the celebrated annual World Economic Forum in Davos - and Publicis XP. Fluency is the network's inhouse influencer agency, now gradually rolling out globally. The cornerstone of the current network was supplied by Manning Selvage & Lee, itself formed in 1972 from the merger of two separate US public relations businesses with roots dating back to the 1930s. It was acquired by Benton & Bowles advertising agency in 1980, and was able to retain its separate identity through the series of corporate mergers and takeovers which followed. It joined Publicis Groupe in 2000 with the acquisition of BCom3.
Capsule checked 5th July 2020
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Historical profile information for MSL Group
Adbrands Daily Update 22nd Apr 2021: With the UK's Covid lockdown beginning to lift, Publicis Groupe's chequebook has been let out to play in the sunshine again. The Groupe announced the acquisition of admired London-based PR agency Taylor Herring for an undisclosed sum. The 20-year-old agency is expected to retain its own identity within Publicis, working alongside MSL Group and corporate communications specialist SalterBaxter. However, it will move out of its current premises later this year and into MSL HQ in Central London.
Adbrands Daily Update 16th Oct 2019: Guillaume Herbette, CEO of PR network MSL, has departed the company, and will not be replaced. According to an internal memo from Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun seen by industry watcher The Holmes Report, "We will not appoint a new global head of MSL. With the implementation of the country model, all MSL offices in the world will now report to the new country structure of Publicis Groupe."
Adbrands Weekly Update 6th Jul 2017: New Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun is continuing the acquisitive tradition established by his predecessor Maurice Levy. This week the group inked a deal to acquire Australian marketing services group Herd for an undisclosed sum. Its main subsidiary is leading local PR agency N2N Communications, and the deal also includes satellites Fuel Communications and Touch Creative. The business will merge with the local arm of Publicis Groupe's PR division under the banner Herd MSL.
Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Apr 2016: The Holmes Report published its latest ranking of the world's leading PR agencies by fee income. Edelman easily retained the #1 position, albeit with a slightly reduced margin over second-placed Weber Shandwick, owned by Interpublic. Omnicom's FleishmanHillard and Ketchum held the #3 and #4 positions. WPP's Burson-Marsteller moved up to equal 5th alongside Publicis-owned MSLGroup. However the biggest change was a 37% increase in fee income for China's BlueFocus which jumped five places in the ranking to the #10 spot, unseating Havas PR. Among the holding companies, Omnicom slipped from first to third place by combined estimated fee income, behind Interpublic and WPP.
Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd July 2015: It was a busy week for Publicis. The Groupe heaped additional responsibility onto the shoulders of Arthur Sadoun, widely regarded as the heir apparent to CEO Maurice Levy, who is due to retire next year. Sadoun retains his role as global CEO for the Publicis Worldwide network, but will also take command of PR business MSLGroup. Its current chief Olivier Fleurot moves to a centralised role as SVP, communications, social responsibility and other administrative areas. The Groupe stressed that there will be no merger of Publicis WW and MSL; according to Levy the move is design to "leverage and integrate our formidable PR and strategic communications capabilities in the service of all Groupe client's campaigns", while also no doubt further testing and honing Sadoun's managerial abilities.
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