BBH takes a hit in US as owner Publicis retrenches

Publicis Groupe-owned BBH has instituted a round of lay-offs, with a 20 per cent cull of its New York and LA offices. No word from HQ about London yet but it’s hardly likely to escape.

London-based group CEO Neil Munn says: “Covid-19 has had a profound impact on the global business landscape. Regrettably, we will be restructuring our business in line with the new realities, to ensure we have the right setup to meet future challenges and opportunities.” As you do.

BBH has struggled to gain traction in the US even as it’s made a number of creative reputations. BBH London has performed pretty well recently but lost the people-heavy Virgin Media account to adam&eveDDB and flagship client Audi will have cut back as owner VW, along with other car companies, retrenches.

All the ad holding companies are making big cuts, some more quietly than others. Publicis has a heavy debt burden after splashing out $4.4bn on data business Epsilon last year. Publicis has historically enjoyed high margins and CEO Arthur Sadoun will be desperate to keep his shareholders mollified.

Its market cap is currently “just” €6 billion (a bit less as WPP.) Ancient French rival Havas is now owned by much larger Vivendi and its boss Vincent Bollore will be keeping a close eye on matters Publicis.

For all its ‘Power of One’ mantra Publicis still seems to have as many agency brands as ever. Mergers or even sales must surely be on the cards.

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About Stephen Foster

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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.