Publicis' Sadoun sizes up his new MSL CEO

Arthur Sadoun.
Arthur Sadoun.

In choosing Guillaume Herbette, the Publicis Worldwide president said, "We wanted someone who is truly international"

In the wake of Guillaume Herbette's appointment this week to the position of MSLGroup CEO, his new boss — Publicis Worldwide President Arthur Sadoun — discusses what the holding company was looking for and how the firm will collaborate more with other agencies under the Publicis umbrella.

Why did you choose Guillaume Herbette to lead MSLGroup?
Arthur Sadoun: When I took supervision of MSL two months ago, as I said very clearly, the idea was not to merge MSL into any of our structure; it was to make sure we transcend MSL in order to play a leading role in the global scene. From day one, we knew … we’d need a new CEO to replace Olivier Fleurot, and when I took on my job, I was already discussing with [Herbette].

What are Herbette’s strengths?
Sadoun: I was looking for somebody who could really drive a global organization because what we’re seeing in the PR world is that there are two big issues: obviously, there’s a race for talent and expertise, and being truly global and truly digital. There is no way to achieve that with scale unless you have a CEO that is overseeing all of the operations. We needed an expert to accelerate the transformation we’re in.

[Herbette] has several strengths that are very important to me. He has huge expertise in operations, he knows how to activate and manage a network, and he knows a lot about talent. A big part of the choice came from the fact that he knows how to structure and attract talent.

We also wanted someone who is truly international. [Herbette] is truly international — he had been running operations all over the world, with a focus on the US, which is absolutely critical for us. He has never worked in France. He is French, but he has spent about 25 years abroad, about 15 years in the US, and he wanted to come back to France for personal reasons, so this is how we met and how we’ve been able to attract him and convince him that from France he could run a global network. But I think he will be spending most of his time in the US.  

What is your vision for further integrating MSLGroup with Publicis?
Sadoun: What we’re trying to do with MSL being more integrated with the other brands of the group is very simple – we believe that in the PR industry, what will be the key success factor tomorrow, thanks to digital, is to make sure that we’re combining influence, brand management, and commerce. Also, that we put PR at the service of business when it comes to b-to-c, and we put PR at the service of corporate strategy when it comes to b-to-b. Today, we have access through the group to all of the main creative agencies. … We believe if we cross-fertilize this better, we can make MSL one of the leading brands — if not the leading brand on the market — in terms of innovation and service through PR. 

What are your goals for the rest of this year with MSL?
Sadoun: My goal for MSL is very simple. We have a great brand, and I have been meeting great teams with great operations and strong client relationships. The PR business is evolving very fast, so the question is who will lead the change in this category? And my feeling is now we have the right technology, right strategy, right team, and the right leader, so we will continue to build this out in the coming months. 

Do you see further integration with other agencies in the group, such as Leo Burnett or Saatchi & Saatchi?
Sadoun: I’m not the CEO of Publicis Groupe, so you’d have to ask Maurice Lévy.

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