Publicis Groupe Takes a Hard Pivot Toward Consulting With 3-Year ‘Sprint to the Future’ Plan

Arthur Sadoun places less focus on creative work during investor day

Publicis Group CEO and chairman Arthur Sadoun addresses shareholders at the company's first investor day since 2013. Getty Images

Before CEO and chairman Arthur Sadoun took the stage today in front of shareholders in London at Publicis Groupe’s first investor day since 2013, the company unveiled its “2020: Sprint to the Future” plan, detailing the three key areas of growth the industry’s third largest global holding company will focus on over the next three years.

In short, what it means is a deeper dive into consulting work.

Publicis said it will tap heavily into “three strategic game changers” by 2020 “to bring one-to-one consumer engagement at scale” to its clients: PeopleCloud, the network’s cloud-based platform that identifies sources of client growth at an individual level; “dynamic creativity” focused on personalized content; and technology and consulting led by its digital business transformation unit Publicis.Sapient to improve consumer engagement.

“We want to become the indispensable partner to our clients in their transformation,” Sadoun said in a video sent to employees earlier today. “We are committed to shifting our model to become a platform for greater efficiencies, and our objective is to lead the pack in terms of financial performance to make sure you progress collectively but also individually.”

The plan will also focus on increasing acquisitions “in the fields of data, dynamic creativity and digital business transformation should reach 300 [million] to 500 million euros per year between 2018-2020,” according to the Publicis statement released ahead of the shareholder meeting.

Sadoun said he would approach discussions with Publicis investors “knowing that both our industry and our clients are being challenged.”

In the video to employees, Sadoun specifically mentioned cost cuts, increased competition and digital disruption but said Publicis would not “make excuses” or “bury our head in the sand.” Rather, he suggested, the company would tackle these issues head-on now to secure its business for the future.

Sadoun’s comments come after WPP CEO Martin Sorrell placed much of the blame for his company’s disappointing 2017 financial results on client-side budget cuts. Sorrell also made a point of downplaying the threat posed by consultancies, describing it as “fake news” in a slide that showed WPP winning the majority of pitches in which it competed with consulting giants like Deloitte and Accenture.

Publicis’ push into the field seems to contradict Sorrell’s sentiment.

On Monday, Publicis announced it had tapped Teresa Barreira, the former chief marketing officer of Deloitte, as Publicis.Sapient’s new CMO. She previously spent nearly 15 years at Accenture.

The unveiling of Publicis’ 2020 plan, which placed an emphasis on consulting over creative work, also comes on the heels of the company’s decision last year to sit out all awards shows to develop Marcel, an AI-powered “professional assistant” that aims to better connect its agencies across the globe.

A spokesperson for Publicis said more information would become available as the investor day wraps up.

@kitten_mouse Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.