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The global citizen

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The global citizen

The CEO of PublicisGroupe, Maurice Lévy, says the future will be about respecting all differences

How has the global communication sector fared in 2012?

The state of the market today is extremely interesting; it was relatively good globally, even though Europe was suffering a bit – and there was nothing dramatic there. But since the end of August there have been many signs of abrupt reductions and cuts in advertising. The end of the year is much tougher than expected,
particularly in Europe.

 

What is your strategy in this context?

It revolves around two main axes: firstly, we’re investing heavily in emerging markets; we’ve recently acquired Malaysian digital company Arachnid. Digital is our second main pillar; we have signed an agreement with digital specialist firm LBi to acquire an 83 percent stake of its capital. The deal will take around three months to complete. We are focusing on these two
segments because they are fast-growing.

What challenges for the communication industry do technological innovations entail?

[Technological progress] has good aspects – we can target, more precisely, the people we want to reach, we can optimize our investment and, more importantly, we can have interactive communication – and aspects that are more debatable: the media landscape is so scattered now that an advertiser can easily get lost; you have to constantly keep up with the new technology if you don’t want to offer obsolete solutions to your client. But there is one thing that has not changed during the 40 years of my career: the big idea. And you can have this big idea on the net, on TV, and even when you are doing media planning or a CRM program. The big idea is still leading the way.

 

What trends do you see emerging in the
communication industry?

Mobility, clearly, is the most important one, and it’s growing extremely fast. In terms of content, we will see more and more communications adapted to local cultures. It’s wrong to think that we will see more global campaigns; if we want to be
successful, we have to be different in the Middle East, in China, in India… There will be
something of a paradox: more global media – such as Google, Facebook or Yahoo! – and, at the same time, more local or original communications, simply because people want to be recognized and want the brand to be attuned to them. Publicis distinguishes
itself from other companies because more than 30 years ago, I decided that its mantra would be “The
difference”: recognition of the difference of language, culture, religion, habits… We must be extremely respectful of differences, and the communication must be adapted to each country and its culture.

 

How is the only originally French global
communication group being perceived in the GCC, a market naturally inclined to favor a more Anglo-Saxon culture?

One of the reasons why we’ve been successful is not because we are French, but because we try to be a very good citizen in each region, and we really rely on our people in the region to adapt. I like what we are – a French group – and I am very proud of what we have achieved, but in each country [in which we operate], we are a citizen of that country, and not a French one.

 

How is the process of naming your successor coming along?

It’s under way and it will take a bit of time; the nominating committee and the board have to make their own opinion, and I have been re-appointed as the CEO for four years. I have decided that I will probably not do the full four years [but] we have time to make the right decision and conduct the right evaluation and assessment.

 

Can you comment on the recent and heated verbal exchanges between yourself and WPP’s Martin Sorrell about Publicis’ hypothetical
acquisition of IPG?

Between Martin Sorrell and myself, it’s a love story, a great love story. He’s my best friend and I love him.

 

You have been in the industry for more than 40 years; what advice would you give to the new generation of communication professionals?

Never underestimate the emotional aspect. We are in the people business and the people are making the difference; it’s not the machine, it’s not the tools… The idea that can best connect the people with the brand is the winning one.

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