The Other Shoe Drops at Publicis Groupe

By Patrick Coffee 

Arthur Sadoun is your new boss. Happy Wednesday.

In not-quite surprising news, Publicis Groupe chose today to announce a new management structure that will (technically) change the way its agencies are run worldwide. Here’s the release if you want to dig through it.

Following a Q3 that led Maurice Levy to use the word “disappointing” and institute another company-wide pay freeze, the organization has created new worldwide divisions and promoted new executives to lead them. Why? Silos. Levy said:


“We have decided to get rid of silos. I’m obsessed by this. Silos are counterproductive in serving our clients well.”

Each Publicis client’s account will be led globally by a chief client officer and will–theoretically, at least–have equal access to all PG organizations around the world. As the release puts it:

“The idea consists of reversing its current structure…all Publicis Groupe capabilities will be available to each of its clients – in a simple, flexible and efficient way. A bit like a smartphone: powered by sophisticated technology but very easy to use.”

Sounds like an Android.

StarCom’s global CEO Laura Desmond will fill the newly-created role of groupe chief revenue officer, overseeing each of these teams and managing their respective client officers.

All of Publicis Groupe’s agencies and service groups will be organized into four “solutions hubs” which will in turn operate at the beck and call of those very same CCOs.

  • The biggest change of interest to our PG-employed readers is the sort-of promotion of Sadoun, who manages to combine “charm, charisma and arrogance in a single package” (not our words). He will now oversee Publicis Communications, a unit which includes most of the Groupe’s PR and creative shops: Publicis Worldwide, MSL, Nurun, Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, BBH and Marcel.
  • Publicis Media will be led by ZenithOptimedia CEO Steve King, and it will include the usual suspects: Starcom Mediavest, ZenithOptimedia, Vivaki, Performics, MRY and Moxie.
  • Publicis.Sapient will focus on the digital and consulting side. Led by Sapient CEO Alan Herrick, the “hub” will include all of the Sapient, DigitasLBi and Razorfish groups. (We can feel you losing interest already.)
  • Finally, Publicis Healthcare Communications Group president and CEO Nick Colucci will lead the obviously named Publicis Healthcare hub, which is the very same organization but without all those pesky silos.

What, exactly, does this mean to our readers? Not a whole hell of a lot, according to Mr. Levy. From the release:

“The identity and the success of each of the Groupe’s brands will be preciously preserved and nurtured.”


“Whenever possible, the dedicated teams will be gathered under one roof.”

Publicis will also create Publicis ONE, a unit consisting of the offices that are not in the 20 countries currently providing PG with “90% of its revenue.” Leo Burnett Asia Pacific CEO Jarek Ziebinski will lead that one, in case you needed a hint as to where those offices might be located. Each country in which PG operates will also maintain its own separate committee, with the U.S. unit set to be led by…you guessed it…Laura Desmond.

The famous PG Directoire quartet consisting of Levy, CFO Jean-Michelle Etienne, general secretary Anne-Gabrielle Heilbronner and “head coach” Kevin Roberts was supplemented last year by a “Directoire+” that includes most of the people who just got new roles. The latter group will now see its functions “broadened and strengthened, allowing them to fully express their skills.”

The executive committee “P12,” which gathers on occasion to discuss matters of governance and (we assume) enjoy shared portions of champagne and caviar, will also be “rethought in order to better adapt to the evolution of the Groupe.”

What are the future implications of this move? As the Financial Times notes today from Paris, Desmond, Herrick and King now join Sadoun on the list of People Most Likely to Replace Levy when he steps down (allegedly) in 2017.

Regarding the larger strategy moving forward, Levy said:

“Advertisers will have to combine more means, to combine more data, technology, and all of that has a cost. Overall, it will be extremely difficult for them to reduce their marketing budgets.”

In other words, a whole lot of people are about to get fired.