Publicis Restructures Its 2 New York Health Agencies and Parts With 20-30 Employees

By Patrick Coffee 

Following the restructuring of its Starcom MediaVest unit and the other agencies under its media solutions umbrella, Publicis Groupe has made another big change.

This round concerns the holding company’s two healthcare-focused agencies in New York City: Publicis Life Brands Medicus and Digitas Health LifeBrands will effectively be consolidated into one.

Moving forward, the two agencies will continue to exist under their current names and share the same building at 1 Pennsylvania Plaza, which has been the headquarters of the larger Publicis Healthcare Communications Group since November 2014 (interestingly, Digitas no longer registers in search results for that address, while Medicus still does). They will, however, operate as one when it comes to shared accounts.


A Publicis Groupe spokesperson tells us:

“In New York, we’ve restructured two agencies (Publicis Life Brands Medicus and Digitas Health LifeBrands) to provide clients with a seamless consumer-through-professional capability, leveraging both brands.”

The spokesperson clarifies that this news does not amount to “closing” or shutting down either of the two Publicis shops and that it will not affect Digitas Health offices in Philadelphia or San Francisco. It does, however, mean that the two agencies will operate as one unit with fully integrated teams when they have shared clients. It’s not clear at the moment how often that new model will apply as neither agency publicly includes its full client roster online.

As part of this move, Publicis Healthcare Communications Group parted ways with between 20 and 30 staffers last week. The spokesperson also tells us that, of the employees who left PHCG, an untold number were reassigned to other Publicis operations while the rest were laid off. This sort of rearrangement has become standard operating procedure for holding companies, but the way Publicis went about it is somewhat unusual.

From first-hand accounts of how things went down last week:

Multiple sources claim that the two agencies will now effectively function as one and that the announcement surprised most employees when it hit last Thursday.

Specifically, we hear that everyone at Publicis Healthcare received an all-staff email calling a mandatory meeting in the main cafe area of the office. Once there, they were assigned to specific conference rooms based on a master list.

At this point, “mass confusion” took hold as employees made their way to the respective rooms. They later learned that one of those rooms was designated for all who would be laid off.

It seems that no one in the office knew exactly who would get the axe, and HR designed the announcement in this way so as to separate those who would keep their jobs from those who would not. With one or two exceptions, the unlucky parties were told to leave with their belongings by the end of the business day.

Sources tell us that the layoffs hit across the board, affecting everyone from art directors and administrative staff to those on the financial side along with several account managers.

We also hear that Alex von Plato, group president of the Publicis Healthcare Communications Group in North America, spoke to all remaining employees at the end of the day in order to rally and boost spirits among those who would still be working at Publicis the following week.

The specific reasons for the move are unclear at this time.

UPDATE: Another source tells us that the account above is accurate with a couple of exceptions: there was no all-staff meeting in the cafe as the emails themselves directed employees to their respective conference rooms.

According to this source, the group of staffers who were dismissed did not include account executives. We also hear that two or three of those who will be leaving Publicis were retained for a transitional period that will last a few weeks, primarily so they can train the people who will eventually replace them.