He came, he met, he made no announcements

20 Dec,2013


By A Correspondent


I have had no meetings with Sam Balsara,” said Maurice Levy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Publicis Groupe, quashing all speculation of his media services conglomerate acquiring Madison World, Balsara’s homegrown and successful advertising behemoth. “I have a lot of regard for the work he has done,” Mr Levy said on Mr Balsara.


Mr Levy is in India after a gap of two years, a period in which various entities of his group have made many acquisitions. While confirming that he is looking at more investments in the market by way of buying existing entities, he did not reveal any specifics. “India is a strategic market for us. We want to invest here and investing,” he said.


In India, the Publicis group has varied interests in creative and media buying and planning agencies, public relations and a variety of marketing services interests.


The France-based transnational group had announced its merger with the US-based conglomerate Omnicom. The merger has been cleared by the Competition Commission of India and is now awaiting similar clearances from the European Union, China and Columbia, Mr Levy said. He indicated that the merger should happen around the second quarter of 2014 and made light of the comments of arch rival and WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell on the merger as “part of his job”.


When asked whether the Publicis group was on course of its target of doubling revenues by end-2014, Mr Levy said that post the merger with Omnicom, it will be more than a doubling.


Mr Lévy joined Publicis in 1971 in charge of IT and In 1975 was appointed President of Publicis Conseil and took responsibility for the international development of the group from the early 1980s, piloting a series of important acquisitions as well as the Groupe’s pioneering strategic focus on digital. Mr Lévy has been Chairman and CEO of the Publicis Groupe since 1987.


Amazed by the time Sir Sorrell is spending discussing the Publicis-Omnicom merger: Maurice Levy

The Pubicis Groupe Chairman and CEO on how his group is doing in India, its investments in digital, the merger with Omnicom and WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell


By Amit Bapna & Pritha Mitra Dasgupta


French advertising major Publicis Groupe plans to make some major investments in India, including acquisitions, right after its merger with Omnicom to create the world’s largest communication conglomerate is complete mid next year, its chief executive Maurice Levy said. Currently in India to review the operations of Publicis entities, Levy said that India is not growing fast enough due to a host of reasons, including political and infrastructural. Edited excerpts of an interview:


Publicis Groups started investing heavily in digital much before many others. Yet in India it has had a relatively slow growth story.

The Indian market is not a digital market. If we look at the Publicis Groupe as a whole, our journey so far has been excellent. I am not saying we cannot do better. Our position in this market is hampered by the fact that we have not yet offered the full range of services and we still need to make more investments. We need to strengthen some of our agencies. We have to develop some integrated services and we need to continue to invest in digital and mobility. And we are doing this irrespective of the merger. So I think the merger and the fusion will be complete by the second quarter (of 2014) and right after that we will make some investments in India – both organic and some acquisitions – to complete the frame.


You have said in an interview that “the other emerging markets, with the exception of India, seem to be in very good health. India has a specific problem”. What is that problem?

It has a specific problem due to the fact that it is not growing fast enough. This has to do with some political issues. It has also to do with the fact that India does not have the infrastructure that this market deserves. India also needs to open the market to some of the sectors like banking and insurance. And we expect that India will take some measures, which will be extremely positive for the growth of India.


When can we see the benefits accruing out of POG (Publicis Omnicom Groupe)?

We have got most of the authorisation and the ones that are still awaited are for Columbia, China and European Union, which should be coming soon. Then there are the stockmarket regulators in the Netherlands and France. We believe we will be done with all the authorisations on the merger by the second quarter. Then we will call the AGM, the stockholders vote and we will come to a final agreement and complete it by latest June 2014, that is my estimate. Only after the merger happens will we be able to sit down and decide what we are going to do in specific markets, how we can have better presence, how we can help clients better, etc. The merger is seen from two standpoints: one at the corporate level, for which we have almost clear idea of what we are going to do, and the second at what we call the work streams: we today have 70 work streams working on specific issues.


Sir Martin Sorrell (WPP CEO) has gone on record saying the POG structure is “clunky” and that “strategically and structurally it does not make any sense at all” because both companies have been going in opposite directions. How do you react to these critiques?

I am amazed by the time Sir Sorrell is spending discussing the Publicis-Omnicom merger. If it is so clunky and terrible and does not make sense, he should rejoice because we are going to make a big mistake, which will be good for him. I don’t understand his spending 2-3 hours a day just speaking about Publicis, and during that time we take care of his clients.


There have been rumours that you are visiting the Law & Kenneth office while in Mumbai and that Saatchi India and Law & Kenneth might come together.

I can neither confirm nor deny anything. I cannot say anything about acquisitions. Praveen Kenneth is somebody I know since many years; he is an ex-colleague at Publicis and I’m very pleased to see the success he has enjoyed. He had asked me to invest in Law & Kenneth even in the early days.


What are your plans for the recently announced Project Blue? Do you plan to bring it to India as well?

Yes, we have plans for it. But we expect to make it work first in Europe and in the US also, to make sure it’s working well, see the results in two years’ time and then decide (how we’ll take it to other markets). It just shows that besides the merger and acquisitions, we are also investing in start-ups. And besides the media business, Project Blue will also have other services.


Can we specifically talk about the performance of Starcom MediaVest and ZenithOptimedia in India?

There are some aspects that went extremely well and on some we had some issues. We lost some accounts and it is part of life. There is a bump and it is important to acknowledge that. What is interesting in our life and in advertising is that you can never rest. Simply because we are in people’s business, client relationship can be shaky, people can leave, which can disturb the course of action of an agency. In the media business, in a market where size matters, we don’t have the size that we should have. That’s clear and we have to build the size. We are building it and it will take time.


Source:The Economic Times

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