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 difficult process, complicated by the Covid pandemic. 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. In Q1 2021, it finally returned to organic growth for the first time since mid-2019. Net revenues for 2020 were €9.7bn, with net income of €576m.
Capsule checked 30th April 2021
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Publicis Groupe's quarterly organic growth since 2016 (subscribers only)
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Historical profile information for Publicis Groupe
Adbrands Update 27th Apr 2021: Auto giant Stellantis, formed from the merger of PSA and FCA, consolidated its global media business with Publicis Groupe following a review. It's a big victory for the French company, whose Starcom already managed FCA Group in North America. The outgoing PSA agency - WPP's Mediacom - will be licking its wounds over the loss of roughly $1.1bn of spend in Europe. Combined spend for the two groups is around $2.4bn annually.
Adbrands Daily Update 15th Apr 2021: Publicis Groupe was first out of the gates with results for Q1 2021, reporting its first positive organic growth since mid-2019. The full year uplift was 2.8%, which represents the Groupe's best quarterly performance since - astonishingly - the same quarter in 2016, five whole years ago. Performance would have been better still without non-core operations like Le Drugstore retail outlet in Paris and French transport media division Mediatransports, which dragged down results in Europe, from 2.8% growth to -1.8% decline. The key market of the US was the main engine for growth, up 5.1%. Also up strongly were Germany (6.0%), France excluding the two afore-mentioned businesses (4.9%) and China (3.0%). However, the UK was still weak at -3.4%. Reported revenues came in at €2.4bn.
Adbrands Daily Update 12th Feb 2021: Publicis Groupe unveiled a bold new project in the US which brings together creative talent from across all its various local agencies. Based in New York, Le Truc - "truc" (prounced "trook") is French slang for "a thing, a whatchamacallit" - is described as a centre for creative excellence for clients. The Group's global chief strategy officer Carla Serrano was named as president, and Neil Heymann - former CCO of Droga5 - was appointed as one of four creative leaders of the entity alongside another new recruit, former Ogilvy NY ECD Bastien Baumann, and Leo Burnett's Liz Taylor and Publicis NY's Andy Bird. "Le Truc's nimble, fluid talent model brings together the best minds and offerings," said Serrano, "ensuring clients get curated teams while delivering more enriching and diverse experiences for our people." The new unit will also drawn on expertise of the Groupe's other New York agencies including Digitas, Razorfish, Rokkan, Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis Media.
Adbrands Daily Update 3rd Feb 2021: Publicis Groupe was first out of the gates with Q4 and full-year results, claiming "best-in-class financials" and a final quarter "ahead of market". An intriguing claim considering that no other groups have yet reported, but very much in keeping with the Publicis tradition of always finding the silver lining in every cloud. Organic decline for the final quarter improved to -3.9%, bringing the full year figure to -6.3%. The US was an important bright spot, with positive growth in the final quarter of 0.5%. Most of the credit was attrributed to data division Epsilon which alone delivered growth of 5.5%. The US performance offset continuing declines elsewhere. Europe was down -9.1%, with the UK and Germany both declining around -11.0% but France by -7.2%. Asia Pacific as a whole was down -8.6% but China did better than the average at -4.2%. On a reported basis, net revenue was €9.7bn, down only -1% year-on-year, but net income plunged by almost a third to €576m.
Separately, CEO Arthur Sadoun took the opportunity to squash any continuing specualtion that Publicis was considering a deal with private equity. "It took us 20 minutes to deny that story," he told media outlet The Drum. "Like every business, we receive lots of solicitation from private equity firms and bankers, but what is clear is that we have not entered into any negotiations with anyone. I do not want to leave any doubt: there was no conversation."
Adbrands Daily Update 11th Jan 2021: Publicis Groupe is reported to have held talks with an unnamed investment fund regarding the possibility of a partial or total private buyout. Campaign broke the news on Friday, prompting a sharp rise in the Publicis share price to its best level since late 2019 (though it has since slipped back). Needless to say, lips are tightly sealed over at the Groupe's Champs-Elysées HQ. However, it has been rumoured for several years that the controlling Badinter family might consider a sale in the wake of the failed 2014 merger with Omnicom.
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