Publicis, from difference to dependency…
From 1987, when he officially succeeds Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, to 2013, Maurice Levy has led an extraordinary adventure that saw the group created by his predecessor, in 1926, growing from being the second French leader in communications to the 3rd worldwide.
This extraordinary success was built by Maurice Lévy on a distinguishing feature, always mentionned in his different speeches: Publicis was a French group, headquartered in a legendary building located on the Champs-Elysees in Paris and chosen by the founder. Compared to its competitors belonging in majority to the anglo-saxon world, that made the “difference”, the DNA of the company as we called it, on which he relied for 25 years to achieve – thanks to different acquisitions – an unprecedented growth on its market.
A specificity expressed in a simple and ambitious signature, “Publicis, the difference,” which later became “Viva la difference!” after its acquisition of the legendary Leo Burnett network in 2002.
A great exception that ended on July 28 when Maurice Lévy signed the agreement to merge Publicis with its rival Omnicom, the world number two, to form the new number one, therefore relegating his arch rival Martin Sorrel and his group WPP , to the plight of being the second.
If the media today celebrate a “merger of equals”, the statement issued yesterday by the bride and groom makes it quite clear that the said equality is more apparent than real.
Maurice Levy and John Wren will jointly lead the new Group for 30 months, the time required to complete the integration. John Wren will then continue as sole Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and New York will likely become, whether we like it or not, the decision-making center of the Group.
France accounted for just over 5% of the activities of Publicis. This share will be further reduced following the merger and our country will only be one amongst many within the new entity, whose key strategic guidelines, including investments, will be decided on the other side of the Atlantic.
Make no mistake, France is losing one of its major world champions.
Employees and clients of Publicis will soon measure the difference stemming from this new dependency.