Arthur Sadoun moves up at Publicis as he adds MSL to Publicis Worldwide empire

Is this a sign of more merger mania at Publicis Groupe (the giant French marcoms company has been busy shunting its digital media operations into big units over the past year)?

Publicis Worldwide president Arthur Sadoun (below) is becoming the boss of its PR operation, MSLGroup too. Sadoun has emerged recently as the likeliest successor to CEO Maurice Levy when he eventually steps down (scheduled for 2017).

Not so, it seems, at least according to Levy: “This alignment is not at all about merging MSLGroup with Publicis Worldwide. Both entities will report to Arthur Sadoun who will leverage MSLGroup’s skills to develop a new integrated approach.”

Well he’s the boss but it is rather peculiar to have the boss of a big agency network (Publicis Worldwide sits alongside Leo Burnett and Saatch & Saatchi in the Publicis Groupe pantheon and handles most of the group’s big French global accounts) running a global PR business too.

But Publicis (the group) is always in search of bigger margins and Levy may have decided that the old holding company model of countless brands, all operating quasi-independently, has run its course. Clients, responding in part to the blandishments of WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell, are more interested in what they get than who they get these days.

So WPP, in pursuit of the Sorrell notion of ‘horizontality,’ has been creating team this and that for its big clients for some years now, often with their own name, like Blue Focus for Ford and Hudson Rouge for Lincoln.

Levy is grouping his digital media assets ($6bn worth) largely under the Sapient banner. Sapient cost $3.7bn of this last year. A similar rationalisation of his other assets may be on the cards.

Sadoun, meanwhile, inches a little further up the slippery Publicis succession pole.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.