Publicis Groupe reports troubles at BBH and MSL in a “patchy” performance

Maurice Levy’s Publicis Groupe has confirmed the poor times it suffered in 2014 following the collapse of the merger with Omnicom, posting a revenue increase of 4.3 per cent to $8.2bn but organic growth of just two per cent, rising to 3.2 per cent in Q4.

Les entretiens de l'AMF, l'Autorite des marches financiersLevy (left), who admits the performance was “patchy.” is promising a return to “cruising speed” in the second half of 2015. By contrast erstwhile partner Omnicom posted dynamic organic growth of 5.9 per cent in Q4 and solid figures for the year as a whole.

Intriguingly Publicis also reports a €72m (euros) ‘impairment charge’ courtesy of BBH, which it bought in 2013, and PR network MSL. Such charges usually imply restructuring (for which read redundancies). BBH had a tough year in 2014 (although it’s bounced back with Tesco in the UK this year) while MSL, like most big PR networks, is suffering as PR becomes primarily online and therefore costs, and consequent fees, reduce. PR agencies have also lost budget to social media agencies.

We still wait to see what Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP will come up with although it will struggle to match Omnicom’s Q4 growth rate. Omnicom’s big agencies, including BBDO and DDB and its media operation OMD, have profited from the strong recovery in the US. WPP and Publicis have invested more heavily in digital (which has yet to deliver the profits of traditional advertising) and ’emerging’ markets, which aren’t emerging as rapidly as they were in a more troubled world.


Interpublic did OK with organic growth in 2014 up 5.5 per cent (from a lower base than its big rivals however) while go-go rival Havas grew 5.1 per cent, slowing in Q4 to just over three per cent. Bosses Michael Roth (IPG) and Yannick Bollore are both cautious about 2015.

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