Forget the Publicis hubris - what matters is the people

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The lines of this week's Publicis Groupe press statement announcing some structural fiddling are too close together to read much between them.

But as a big sticking plaster over the wound left by the flopped merger with Omnicom, the press release makes for interesting reading.

We’re left no clearer on who’s going to be running the group in five years’ time. Will Maurice Lévy really quit in 2017? I can’t find anyone to bet on it. Who’s at his shoulder ready to take over? Hmm, give us more time on that one. It was only June when Lévy said he was going to be off at the end of 2015. Now he has clawed back another year or two and his touted successor, Jean-Yves Naouri, has slipped quietly away. The baseline is that Publicis Groupe needs a new thing now it’s not going to be the biggest and has no obvious succession plan.

Publicis Groupe needs a new thing now it's not going to be the biggest and has no obvious succession plan

First up on the official statement, number-one action point from the group’s Big Brother-ish Conseil de Surveillance: digital. The group has been dogged by a messy and confusing jamboree of digital offerings, but it’s now merging Razorfish with Rosetta and planning a new assault in the space: "Advertisers are grappling with the accelerating pace of technological innovation and the inevitable transformation to a digital world… taking all the changes into account, Publicis Groupe will extend its leadership in the digital sphere and enrich its offerings by creating new services, either by organic growth or acquisitions, notably in the realm of technology."

Apparently, what Publicis Groupe really, really wants to be is "a hybrid company of the new era: an alchemy of talents offering advertisers the strategic, creative and technological solutions they need to progress, both in terms of image and of growth, in a world of constant upheaval generated by technological innovations". And you can’t argue with hubris like that.

Important as the promised digital land-grab is as a bone to throw the analysts, the thing that really matters in all of this grand statement is that "alchemy of talents" – the people out there shaping the agency cultures, inspiring and motivating the best people and working shoulder to shoulder with clients to grow their business.

Which is why it’s so great to see the brilliant Robert Senior take the helm at Saatchi & Saatchi. There’s a man who knows alchemy when he sees it (and knows where to kick when he doesn’t). Along with Laura Desmond and Steve King, who both also get a well-deserved step up in the new structure, Senior will be one of those people to give the group a new purpose. Whoever succeeds Lévy – and the current front runner is Publicis Worldwide’s Arthur Sadoun – will do well to hang on to that alchemy of talents as a new mantra for the company.

claire.beale@haymarket.com      @clairebeale

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