Publicis Media industry verdict: ‘Sound strategy, somewhat overdue’ | M&M Global

Publicis Media industry verdict: ‘Sound strategy, somewhat overdue’

As thousands of Starcom Mediavest Group and Zenithoptimedia employees spend the weekend contemplating how they fit into the new Publicis Media unit, the message from the industry is one of restrained positivity: better late than never.


In case you missed it, Publicis Groupe has reorganised its media offering into four new agency networks, each sitting within an umbrella group, Publicis Media. Those agencies are Starcom, Zenith, Mediavest|Spark and Optimedia|Blue 449. A new leadership team is in place – read all the details here.

WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell has already contributed his thoughts, decrying Publicis’ new structure as a “pale imitation’ of his own group’s approach, in particular its GroupM media unit.

But what have others in the industry had to say?

Nick Manning, Ebiquity
Nick Manning, Ebiquity

Nick Manning, chief strategy officer at marketing analytics firm Ebiquity, and a co-founder of Manning Gottlieb Media, believes Publicis Media CEO Steve King and colleagues should be “congratulated” for making the changes – but says they should have taken place “some while ago”.

Manning points out the obvious benefit of pooling all of Publicis’ media buying into a single organisation, but believes it may take “years” for the new agencies to develop cohesive cultures across international markets.

“This is a little bit of Publicis trying to use their total resources in a way that they haven’t done before,” says Manning. “Media these days is a scale game, it’s a volume game, and all the major groups have to use their combined resources and leverage to get the most out of the market.

“Generating a proper culture for each of the agency networks is also quite a large task. This takes years, not months”

“The point about all these agency restructures, and I’ve done all this myself, is that writing it all down, putting all the architecture together, and getting it all in shape is merely the start of the process. What really matters is what happens at a localised level. That is the bit that takes time.

“Generating a proper culture for each of the agency networks is also quite a large task. This takes years, not months, to do. It’s somewhat overdue, and it’s great that they are doing it, and they should be congratulated on doing it, but the hard work starts now,” he adds.

Communication is key

Parry Jones, managing director of print media at independent agency The Specialist Works, agrees that the Publicis Media management team must work hard to communicate the benefits of the new proposition, both internally as well as externally.

“Their strategy is sound,” says Jones, who comments that “performance” and “innovation” must at the heart of any agency offering. “But communication is key to Publicis’ success. If you want to know whether this will work, wait until Monday morning.

“Staff at every level will be asking themselves two questions: what does this mean to me, and how does this affect what we can offer clients?”

“We have recently been through strategic changes on a smaller scale. Much like media strategy, we understood that plans are only as strong as their implementation. Staff at every level will be asking themselves two questions: what does this mean to me, and how does this affect what we can offer clients?

“The people on the front line will soon decide if this is a good plan,” he says.

No longer differentiated

One of the key challenges for Publicis Media will be creating four distinct agency networks that avoid the trap of drifting to a homogenous middle-ground, warns Corey Ferengul, CEO at ad tech company Undertone – something easier said than done when growing through acquisition and trying to keep clients happy.

“I personally find some of the holding company structures very confusing. When you may have started or acquired [the media agencies], they may have had a differentiation that was very clear, but I don’t know if it is anymore,” says Ferengul.

“Two to three years down the line there is a problem and the two agencies you bought that were totally differentiated are no longer differentiated,”

And, like Manning, Ferengul questions the length of time it has taken for Publicis to arrive at its new media proposition: “If I were the leader of those organisations, I’d be doing exactly what they are doing. But, on the other hand, they probably should have done it sooner.”

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