Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO, Publicis Groupe, is currently visiting India. He took time out to interact with media in Mumbai on 19 December.
Targets for India
"I try visiting a different country every year. I haven't visited India since 2011 and thought it was appropriate to visit the country,” began Levy, even as journalists eagerly awaited a major announcement.
On India plans, he said, "We are committing to the country. We want to be a solid number two because we believe the number one is a solid number one. We have made important investments in India because the country is important for us. Talent coming from the country is one of the reasons it is important and it can be used to consolidate our position in India and even out of the country. Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategy and innovation officer, VivaKi, is one example. And he’s a person that shows the importance we put to Indian people.”
Updating the media on acquisitions the group has made over the last two years, he said, “The acquisitions are delivering to expectations. I’ll be visiting some of the operations we have acquired, but we are pleased that the strategy to acquire the agencies we have, was correct.”
On the subject of the Publicis-Omnicom merger, arguably the biggest development in the advertising world, ever, he noted that things were progressing smoothly. “The due process is working well and we aren’t facing any major hurdle for the time being. We hope to get the merger authorisations soon. We’ll get clearances by the European Union, China and Colombia by the end of January. A few more clearances will be required after that too,” explained Levy.
“Till all the clearances come into place, we work as competitors. As all the formalities are not over we haven’t been able to sit down and figure immediate plans for all markets. We have organised 70 work streams to figure decisions that have to be made prior to the merger and after the merger,” he added.
Responding to a question about the different work cultures between the two networks, the Publicis Groupe chairman said, “We have differences, but we’ll address that. It has happened before when we took over Saatchi, an agency which had a different work culture. We believed in it, and it’s worked well for us. We have to accept diversity and different cultures,” surmised Levy, on the subject of the merger.
Levy was then asked about where he thought growth would come from. He responded, “In 2006, we identified two pillars for growth – digital and emerging markets. This was before every other network. We’ve built on that. In 2011, we had 100 people working on digital. Now, in 2013, we have 1,500 people working on the platform in India and 20,000 globally in the group. We’ve catered to the emerging markets by growing rapidly in countries like Brazil and China, where we’ve doubled growth.”
He added, “Digital impact has been huge in the daily life of people. India is lagging behind for reasons I don’t know, but I honestly think the country will get there soon.”
‘Merger the means, not the end’
At the top of the list of priorities remains thinking about how the group can best serve its clients, underlined Levy. To do this, a few things had to be in place, explained the Publicis Groupe chairman and CEO.
He elaborated, “We have to be more innovative and we need to have a system to integrate our innovations across verticals. I’m not thinking about growth, but I’m thinking of how can I make relations better with a client or how can we create value for a client. Value creation is what clients are looking for. We’ve to keep looking to create value. The day you become content with what you have done for more than a span of two minutes, you’ve become complacent and that’s calling for trouble. Even after the merger is completed, we have to go on. The merger is a means, not an end.”
“Along with some acquisitions that we plan to make, we’ll also be looking at organic growth,” surmised Levy.
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