Publicis chief high on India investment, talent

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on December 19, 2013

Maurice Levy, Chairman


Maurice Levy, 71, Chairman of the France-based Publicis Groupe, claimed to be hard of hearing due to his advancing age — an excuse he used to refrain from commenting on the take over of an Indian media agency.

Levy, who will be Co-CEO of the $23-billion world’s largest advertising conglomerate when it merges with the US-headquartered Omnicom Group in about six months, was responding to questions of a rumoured takeover of the largest home grown media agency, Madison.

Evasive on Madison

“You mean we are taking over Madison Avenue. We are merging with the Americans.” he joked, referring to the advertising agency hub in New York, and later dodged the question by saying that there was no conversation with Madison’s promoter, Sam Balsara, “due to a crowded agenda”.

Addressing the media, Levy struck an extremely bullish note on India. Publicis Groupe expects to double revenues from India by 2014, despite tough market conditions. Some part of that growth will be through acquisitions.

In 2011, the group had only 100 employees for the digital function in India. Now, there are 1,500 people in India working purely for the group’s digital business. Emerging markets contributed roughly 25 per cent to the group’s turnover and the aim is to bring it to 35 per cent by 2017, Levy said.

His optimism was based on a forecast by the World Bank that by 2030, India will have the world’s largest middle-class population. This means a lot of opportunity for his clients to increase advertising spends to tap this large market. “The Indian market has a lot of untapped potential. This is a market where we can still invest and grow as much as the market is growing.” He added that India offered a great knowledge base in IT and digital, which is vital for the advertising business.

He said his group had an extremely solid grip on its digital capabilities and that would hold the key for it to win in the future. “We are doubling the size of our businesses in the emerging markets. The intention is to continue to invest in these markets,” he said.

Omnicon merger

Levy pointed out that the merger with Omnicom was moving along quite nicely, but declined to specify a time period by when formalities would be completed, citing pending approvals in the EU, the US and China.

On the future of the advertising business, he said on occasions his group had made business pitches where the others in the fray were management consulting biggies such as Accenture and Deloitte.

“We do not intend to compete with them. But due to developments in this industry, there has been a blurring of skills and roles, where ad agencies are increasingly doing jobs that were done by others.”

Rival advertising holding company WPP’s Martin Sorrell has been responding to the Publicis Omnicom Group merger with a lot of pessimism.

Levy said, “The merger formalities left me with little time to think about the competition and to worry about what Sorrell says. Some people are obsessed with competition. I am obsessed (with) what I am doing for my clients.”.


Published on December 19, 2013

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