Maurice Levy, chairman and chief executive officer, Publicis Groupe is a seasoned conversationalist who chooses his words carefully but with the studied carelessness of someone who can always absolve himself from the toughest, most uncomfortable, of questions. And Levy is generous with metaphors, as was evident in this interview with Campaign India’s editor Anant Rangaswami.
This is a long awaited visit to India for Levy, who had spoken to Campaign India at Cannes this year about the need to visit the country in end 2010. And Levy has lived up to his word. There are a lot of things that require his attention in India at the moment. There is talk about Publicis streamlining its advertising agency business, Starcom MediaVest is yet to announce a successor for outgoing CEO, Ravi Kiran and there is talk about Publicis actively seeking out acquisitions in the Indian market, an action plan that Levy himself outlined in a chat with Campaign India in the south of France this year. But ask Levy about all these various talk points and he insists that, first and foremost, he is going to spend his time in India doing one important thing -- listening.
“In our business, very often, we speak more than we listen. On this India trip, I am going to be meeting all the chief executives of all our Publicis Groupe companies in India and I am going to be carefully listening to everything that they have to say,” he smiles.
However, Levy was careful with his choice of words, when asked about rumours that Publicis may consider streamlining its advertising agency business under the Publicis plank, with Publicis Ambience, Publicis India and Publicis Capital being made to come closer together.
“There is always a reflection about how to best serve the client and how to best attract the people. There has been this idea that it is good to have small ships- steamers. So these are ideas that are always boiling. Sometimes it just boils, and nothing happens. And sometimes, I am reading it in the press because the press is speculating much more than us because they can do so. And that’s fair, that’s their job. We have a strategy to strengthen the operation but what’s the best way to do so- that is yet to be decided.”
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As for speculation that Publicis was looking to buy out 100% of an Indian agency, Levy denied that he was aware of any such development, but did, however, insist that he could not completely rule out such rumours because given the size of their ambition for the Indian market, someone, somewhere in his office could have been in conversation with one agency or the other to understand future synergies.
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When asked why, although Publicis Groupe has a sizeable number of agencies in the country today, more wasn’t being done to project the company as a sum of all these different parts, Levy was of the view that it had to do, primarily with the late entrant status of Publicis Groupe compared to most of the other holding companies.
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He did believe, however, that Publicis Groupe has been a fast mover in the area of digital as far as India was concerned and that would drive a significant amount of traction for Publicis Groupe in the country in the next few years.
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