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. Other jewels in the Publicis crown include multi-hub creative networks Bartle Bogle Hegarty, wholly owned since 2012, and Fallon. 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 has remained under-par since the collapse of that Omincom deal, prompting a mammoth structural reorganisation during 2016. Now it falls to Levy's successor as CEO, former creative chief Arthur Sadoun, to restore Publicis to solid growth.
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Adbrands Daily Update 6th Feb 2019: As usual, there was no shortage of hyperbole in Publicis Groupe's 4Q and annual results announcement. "We clearly led the change in our industry," claimed CEO Arthur Sadoun , "demonstrating that we have the model to win today and tomorrow." Yet the numbers showed only the weakest of growth; it remains to be seen whether Publicis will have out-performed its rivals. For 4Q the groupe actually reported a 0.3% organic decline in revenues as a result of continued poor performance by the PHS outsourced healthcare sales unit, divested in early 2019. Excluding PHS, 4Q organic growth was 0.5%. Full year organic growth was just 0.1% (0.8% excluding PHS). Despite Sadoun's protestations of a "record year both commercially and financially", reported net revenues slipped back to €8.97bn as a result of currency headwinds. Net attributable income rose 7% to €919m, but at an operating level before financial expenses and tax, the comparable figure was down slightly year-on-year. The disappointing figures shocked analysts, prompting a dramatic slump in Publicis' share price. Separately, Publicis Media chief Steve King was promoted to group COO under Sadoun. Lloyds Banking Group marketer Ros King joins Publicis as EVP global clients.
Adbrands Weekly Update 25th Oct 2018: Publicis Groupe announced a series of further changes to its portfolio to strengthen its offering. Leo Burnett's shopper marketing agency and its cross-group sister Saatchi & Saatchi have joined forces to open a new office near key client Procter & Gamble's Cincinnati HQ under the name PG One Commerce, offering in-store/shopper marketing, retail design, display, digital, ecommerce, data, analytics and quick turn production. Separately, the Groupe announced the acquisition of French IT consultancy Xebia for an undisclosed sum. The business will be absorbed into the local office of Publicis.Sapient to strengthen its technology capabilities.
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Oct 2018: The recovery at Publicis Groupe continues. However, organic growth came in at just 1.3% despite a string of recent big account wins. CEO Arthur Sadoun put much of the blame on the under-performing contract sales unit Publicis Health Solutions, which has now been officially marked for sale. Excluding PHS, organic growth was a more satisfactory 2.2%. The biggest dent from PHS was in North America, still negative at -0.6% (but +1.0% excluding PHS). Europe was strongly positive at 4.4% (including 10.4% in the UK, 9.2% in Italy and 5.7% in France). Asia Pacific delivered 2.5% overall. Gains in several markets were offset by a 3.3% decline in Australia. On a reported basis including currency fluctuations and M&A, group revenue edged up 0.5% to just under €2.2bn. No profit figures were disclosed.
Adbrands Weekly Update 19th Jul 2018: Publicis Groupe had an even tougher quarter than Omnicom, despite multiple account gains. Revenues of €2.2bn represented an organic decline of 2.1%, the first negative from the group in five quarters, reducing the year-to-date figure to negative 0.4%. Net income for the half-year was also down sharply - by more than a fifth - to €301m. All three of the group's main operating regions reported organic declines in 2Q: down 3.6% in Europe, down 2.3% in North America and down 2.1% in Asia Pacific. The two remaining regions of Latin America and Middle East & Africa both reported increases, but together represent barely 7% of total revenues. CEO Arthur Sadoun cited uncertainty regarding GDPR data privacy implementation in Europe and a sharp decline in performance by the out-sourced sales unit within Publicis Health USA.
Adbrands Weekly Update 14th Jun 2018: Yes, Cinderella, you shall go to the Ball! A year ago, Publicis Groupe's new CEO Arthur Sadoun shocked his employees and the industry at large by stating the group would not participate in any awards events for a full year, including Cannes 2018, in order to focus its attention on the development of a new internal management system, Marcel. What a difference a year makes. With the 2018 festival due to start this weekend, It has been revealed that almost 400 campaigns created by Groupe companies are under consideration this year, and more than 80 staff will attend, including Sadoun himself. Was it all just a publicity stunt? "Absolument non!" says Publicis. It claims to have stuck to its own "strict rules" for non-involvement, and says it has not to submitted any work on its own behalf (apart for a single campaign by BBH on behalf of victims of London's Grenfell Tower disaster). Instead all submissions have been made and paid for by clients and partners. Around 25 key leaders have also been invited to attend by clients, and another 20 or so will be there on Publicis's ticket to protect their own clients from the rapacious attention of rival agencies. Some 15 other staff couldn't live a year without the Gutter Bar and are paying for themselves. Cannes' owner Ascential also sneakily bypassed the moratorium by inviting several senior Publicis Groupe managers (including Sadoun) to appear at the event as speakers or jury members and also curried favour by offering a platform for a live presentation of the Marcel system onstage.
Adbrands Weekly Update 17th May 2018: With all figures now in, here's the final standing for 1Q. IPG leads with 3.6% organic growth, followed by Omnicom (2.4%), Dentsu (2.1%), Publicis (1.6%), MDC Partners (1.0%), WPP net sales (negative 0.1%) and Havas (negative 1.7%).
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