Arun Sudhaman

Working the angles around media, comms and marketing.

Publicis Groupe has a PR problem

with 3 comments

There has been a lot of talk recently about how spending on PR may be hit harder than advertising – despite earlier signs to the contrary. Most notably, Publicis Groupe global CEO Maurice Levy was unequivocal when he said that PR was the worst performing unit at his company, and he doubted a recovery would materialise until 2010.

Which leads us quite nicely to this story I wrote for Media Asia about a possible merger between the two Publicis PR networks: MS&L and Publicis Consultants. Both agencies lack global leadership and are now under the oversight of Publicis Groupe veteran Olivier Fleurot. Of the ‘big four’ holding companies, Publicis Groupe surely has the weakest PR operation, something that Fleurot was quite candid about when I interviewed him.

If they do merge, and I think any decision is some way off, it’s not clear that it will suddenly result in a network with critical global mass. They are different shops with different cultures. A Maurice Levy internal memo says that more integration between the two agencies will happen and that makes sense. But a full-blown merger?

It is not as if Publicis is the only company that houses PR agencies of indeterminate size, either. Look at all of the holding companies and there are several examples of agencies that could potentially be paired with siblings in the search for cost-savings. Surely any merger, though, has to be about more than cutting costs?

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Written by Arun Sudhaman

May 22, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Media Asia, PR, PRWeek

Tagged with , , ,

3 Responses

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  1. I don’t think it will become a full-blown merger either because unless Publicis thinks Rowland can suddenly be revived from the dead, they’ll always need the second brand as a conflict shop. Hass’ departure was a clear signal that after four years, Publicis’ PR ops simply hadn’t made much of a dent. Can you blame Hass? He had no international experience before becoming MS&L’s CEO. Publicis was simply too late to the game in Asia and needed a slugger but got a shortstop. Now they’re paying for their lack of vision. Sheesh, a blind man could have told them they were bound to fail…

    Newsmeister China

    May 25, 2009 at 6:50 am

    • The point about having a conflict shop is a very worthwhile one – but still requires enough global business to make two networks necessary. I suspect at least one of the two networks will need to look closely at acquisition to try and scale up more effectively. It’s also worth noting that Publicis owns strong agencies in Freud and Kekst, so it is not as if they are completely asleep to the importance of a strong PR operation.

      Arun Sudhaman

      May 25, 2009 at 8:13 pm

  2. [...] PR holdings include Manning, Selvage & Lee, Publicis Consultants and Freud Communications. Some have suggested that the company has the weakest PR offerings among the major holding agencies and may be [...]


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