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 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 process, but there was finally a return to consistent positive uplift during 2018. In 2019, though, Publicis announced its biggest ever acquisition, agreeing to pay $3.95bn for US data and CRM giant Epsilon.
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Adbrands Daily Update 10th Jan 2020: In a rare case of reverse engineering, Publicis Groupe has sold Relaxnews, the French content agency it acquired in 2015 for €15m, for an undisclosed sum. It was always an odd fit for the Groupe, an editorial newswire operator which was slotted into what was then ZenithOptimedia. Rather than merge the business with other operations or just close it (as it has done with the vast majority of the companies it has acquired in recent years), the Groupe transferred ownership back to Relaxnews' founders. They are changing the name of the business to ETX Studio.
Adbrands Daily Update 25th Nov 2019: In a surprise development, former Publicis Groupe CEO Marcel Levy - still the group's non-executive chairman - has accepted a role as interim chief marketing & communications officer at troubled office-share business WeWork. Despite his extensive experience as a senior manager agency-side at Publicis, 77-year-old Levy has never worked directly for a client before or handled a day-to-day marketing budget. Unsurprisingly, WeWork also appointed the Groupe as its main marketing and communications supplier.
Adbrands Daily Update 21st Nov 2019: It was only a matter of time... Publicis Groupe unveiled a major overhaul of its structure in Germany that is clearly set to be the template for other markets over the coming months. German trade source HorizonT reveals today that, from January 2020, what are currently two separate divisions of Publicis Communications and Publicis Media are being combined under a single management team led by CEO Frank-Peter Lortz. In a further evolution of the group's "Power of One" concept, the Publicis Worldwide agency brand is being dropped altogether, and the Publicis name will be used only for the parent group and for dedicated agencies such as Publicis One Touch (for Nivea) or Publicis Emil (for Mercedes-Benz). The Leo Burnett agency brand will be gradually phased out. It will only be used for international network-wide clients rather than local accounts, and instead Saatchi & Saatchi takes precedence as the group's main advertising agency. Three separate media brands - Zenith, Starcom and Spark Foundry - will continue at least for the time being, but under the new group structure. All standalone digital operations will be consolidated under the banner of Digitas Pixelpark. PR arm MSL will continue to operate separately under the local group banner, alongside performance marketing arm Performics, production arm Prodigious and brand business MetaDesign.
Adbrands Daily Update 14th Nov 2019: With all results now in, Omnicom led the pack for 3Q with organic growth of 2.2%, followed by Interpublic at 1.4% and WPP on 0.7%. Havas was flat at 0.0% ahead of Dentsu -0.1%, Publicis -2.7% and MDC Partners -7.5%.
Adbrands Daily Update 8th Nov 2019: Publicis Groupe is tipped to have been selected as winner of global Nivea creative, with WPP awarded Beiersdorf's supporting brands Eucerin, Hansaplast Labello and so on. Confirmation is still awaited. Publicis had been competing in a final shoot-out with WPP's Thjnk and Wunderman Thompson agencies. FCB is the departing agency. It's the latest in a series of strong gains for the French group. Also this week, Publicis retained global creative for Axa and gained media in the insurer's four key markets of France, the UK, Germany and Italy. (WPP's Wavemaker got the rest of the globe). The French group also won EMEA creative and media for McCormick spices, and recently collected a big win from Disney. The key question, though, is how much Publicis is prepared to give away in fees to achieve these wins. It has already racked a succession of significant wins during the first nine months of this year, and yet organic revenue growth for the latest quarter was the Groupe's worst ever, and it is firmly in the red for YTD growth. Judging by the headline wins alone, one might reasonably have expected better growth numbers.
Adbrands Daily Update 15th Oct 2019: Omnicom Media Group retained the bulk of the business of Disney's North Amerian media channels following a major global review worth over $2bn in billings. That includes the Disney, Fox, Pixar, Marvel and other movie studios as well as ABC, ESPN and other broadcast and cable strands. A new dedicated agency, OMG23, is being created to manage the business. However, Publicis Media has been awarded all international entertainment assets as well as the soon-to-launch Disney+ streaming service worldwide and Disney's global Parks & Resorts division, previously held by Carat. It's an important counter to the Groupe's poor Q3 results, unveiled earlier than expected last week. (Was the timing arranged to get the bad news out of the way in time for this week's good news?) WPP is reported to have retained Disney's business in India.
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