Publicis Groupe has forced its way into the top ranks of the world's leading marketing organisations through a string of canny and transformational acquisitions. Having learned painful lessons from a disastrous alliance with FCB during the 1990s, CEO Maurice Levy's acquisition of Saatchi & Saatchi in 2000 proved far more harmonious. Even more impressive was the agreed takeover of Leo Burnett two years later. Another jewel in the Publicis crown is multi-hub creative network Bartle Bogle Hegarty, wholly owned since 2012. After a shaky start, Publicis has shown itself to be a worthy rival to established giants WPP and Omnicom. The group is especially strong in digital marketing. It acquired US-based Digitas in 2006, and broadened that network's footprint significantly. A deal to acquire rival digital agency Razorfish in 2009 allowed Publicis to overtake Interpublic as the world's third largest marketing services group. A series of further small and medium-sized acquisitions followed between 2010 and 2012, capped in 2013 by what was intended to be CEO Maurice Levy's crowning glory, a transformational deal whereby Publicis and larger rival Omnicom would merge to create the world's #1 marketing services giant. Despite securing most regulatory approvals, the deal eventually foundered on disagreements over the final structure of a combined group and was called off in May 2014. Instead, Levy unveiled a new deal a few months later with an agreement to acquire digital group Sapient for $3.7bn. However, the group's performance slumped dramatically following the collapse of the Omnicom deal, prompting a mammoth structural reorganisation during 2016. It fell to Levy's successor as CEO, former creative chief Arthur Sadoun, to restore Publicis to solid growth. That has been a slow and as yet unfinished process. Instead, the Groupe has continued to feed topline growth with further acquisitions. In 2019, Publicis announced its biggest ever, agreeing to pay $3.95bn for US data and CRM giant Epsilon.
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Publicis Groupe's quarterly organic growth since 2016
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Adbrands Daily Update 27th May 2020: Weeks after its peers, Dentsu finally published financial results for 1Q. With all results now in, surprise leader of the pack for 1Q was MDC Partners at 2.0%, while Omnicom and Interpublic both weighed in at 0.3%. Dentsu came next at -0.8%, followed by Publicis at -2.9% and WPP and Havas both on -3.3%.
Adbrands Daily Update 1st May 2020: In a bid to keep the wheels turning during lockdown, Publicis Groupe launched a new offer to midsized US marketers under the banner of "The Pact". Its newly acquired Epsilon division will guarantee to deliver an agreed set of key targets, for example, sales, customer acquisitions or return on digital ad spend. If results are not delivered, it will refund the entire agency fee and media expenditure. Clients with revenues between $10m and $1bn are eligible for the offer. A brilliant innovation or a desperate ploy to attract clients? We'll let you decide. Epsilon was the Groupe's most expensive-ever acquisition, with a price tag of $4.4bn.
Adbrands Daily Update 24th Apr 2020: Publicis Groupe appointed its first ever global chief marketing officer, naming Justin Billingsley to that position. Billingsley will also retain his current roles as chairman of Publicis Emil and Publicis One Touch, the dedicated units for Mercedes-Benz and Nivea respectively.
Adbrands Daily Update 15th Mar 2020: Omnicom has yet to set a date for announcing 1Q results, but CEO John Wren wrote to all staff to give details of the group's plans in the current environment. He pledged to limit redundancies in favour of furloughs, but said there would still be some losses "across many of our agencies". He also said that executive leadership including network and practice area CEOs would have their salaries reduced by a third, while he will waive 100% of his own salary until October. Publicis Groupe earlier this week announced a 30% cut to the salaries of CEO Arthur Sadoun and chairman Maurice Levy and 20% for members of the management team.
Adbrands Daily Update 14th Apr 2020: Publicis Groupe was well ahead of the pack as virtually the first company anywhere to report 1Q figures, ahead even of the US banks who usually kick off the reporting season and will announce later today. As usual, CEO Arthur Sadoun put a relentlessly upbeat spin on the figures, which were, he said, heading towards positive growth before being blown off-course by the Coronavirus pandemic. "At the end of February before the pandemic started to spread, we recorded almost flat growth, despite double digit decline in China, mostly driven by 5% organic growth in the US on our creative and media business." Yet with March declines factored in, the organic slump excluding newly acquired Epsilon and other factors was -2.9%. That's better than last quarter's worst ever drop, but still the second worst organic decline in the Groupe's history. The biggest damage came from Publicis's second largest region Europe, down -9.2% organic for the full quarter. North America scraped a 0.5% gain. The US was only 0.2% but Canada delivered 3.1%. Despite a whopping -15% plunge in China, Asia Pacific as a whole was down only -1.9% as a result of strong growth in India. Despite the organic declines, total revenues were boosted year-on-year by the acquisitions of Epsilon and Rauxa during the course of 2019. Reported topline was up by over 17% to €2.5bn. To his credit, Sadoun gave an honest but chilling verdict on the likely impact of Coronavirus on the global industry. "This crisis is going to be unprecedented by its magnitude, complexity and length," he told the WSJ. "Everyone was comparing this crisis to 2009 but this is not the right reference. There is no comparison. It's going to be steeper."
Adbrands Daily Update 28th Feb 2020: With all results now in, Omnicom led the pack for 4Q with organic growth of 3.5%, followed by Interpublic at 2.9%. Everyone else was in negative territory: Dentsu -1.1%, MDC Partners at -1.5%, WPP on -1.6%, Havas -2.0% and Publicis on a grim -4.5%.
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