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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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.
Adbrands Daily Update 15th Oct 2020: Publicis Groupe was first out of the gate with results for Q3. CEO Arthur Sadoun championed the Groupe's "unique" structural model for limiting the decline in organic revenues to -5.6% for the quarter, with a fall of -7.2% for the nine months to-date. However, reported revenues of €2.3bn for the quarter represented a -9.1% decline against the year-ago period, which was the first to benefit from the bolt-on of Epsilon. We'll need to wait for results from the other groups to see just how well Publicis is really weathering the storm. Certainly, in Q3, the US performed significantly better than might have been expected, down only -2.4%, compared to -9.0% in Europe and -9.2% in Asia Pacific. The key markets of France and the UK were especially badly dented at almost -14% and close to -11% respectively. Germany was down by slightly less than -9%. Latin America and other markets were even worse affected than Europe but represent only a tiny proportion - less than 5% - of revenues.
Adbrands Daily Update 23rd Jul 2020: The real test of Publicis Groupe's 'Power of One' consolidation strategy comes now: how well has a more unified group been able to cope with lockdown compared to its peers? It was first out of the gates with results for 2Q - peak lockdown period. The addition of Epsilon last July helped reported revenues to June 2020 rise 2.6% year-on-year to €2.3bn, but this is the last time the Groupe will be able to benefit from that windfall. (Until it inks another big deal, that is.) By contrast, organic revenues excluding acquisitions and exchange rates plunged by a shock -13.0%. That's a dramatic fall, the worst reported by any marketing group for more than a decade. But then, these are unique times, and some analysts had predicted a decline of as much as -20%. The proof will comes as rivals report. On a regional basis, Europe was worst hit, down -23.5% in the quarter. North America did comparatively well with a dent of just -7.6%, or -6.8% in the US alone. Asia Pacific, which was already emerging from lockdown during the quarter, fell just -5.7%. Latin America and Middle East/Africa were also down by over 20% apiece but their overall contribution to the group is small, representing less than 5% of revenues between them. Despite the plunge in revenues, Publicis still managed to scrape a profit for the first half of the year (it doesn't report quarterly profits). Net income fell more than 60% but was still in the black at €136m.
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%.
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