Publicis posts strong Q1 2021 with growth of 2.8 per cent

Publicis Groupe continued its return to growth in Q1 2021 at 2.8% across the board, driven by strong performances in the US from data businesses Sapient (up 11.2% there) and Epsilon (+4.7%.)

The US in total was up for the second quarter in a row, at 5.1%, Asia up 5.7%, China 3% with Europe, still mostly enmeshed in the pandemic, down 1.8%.

CEO Arthur Sadoun (above) says: “In an environment that remains challenging, Publicis Groupe is returning to positive organic growth. Thanks to the effects of our transformation, we posted a solid +2.8% in Q1, ahead of expectations.

“Our US operations were positive for the second quarter in a row, with +5.1% organic growth. We continued to capture a disproportionate amount of the shift in client investment towards digital channels, e-commerce and DTC (direct to consumer), as demonstrated in the acceleration of Publicis Sapient’s US growth at +11.2%. It is also visible with Epsilon, posting mid-single digit growth for the second consecutive quarter, at +4.7%.

“In Asia, we reported an acceleration in organic growth of +5.7% for Q1. China returned to growth at +3.0%, as it began to benefit from a strong series of wins over the past 18 months.

“Europe meanwhile is showing sequential improvement, with a performance that was slightly down in Q1 at -1.8%. Excluding Mediatransports and The Drugstore, on the Champs-Elysées, organic growth in Europe was at +2.8%. Some countries like France and Germany are returning to growth, but ongoing lockdowns weighed on some of our operations.

“Returning to growth earlier than expected raises even further the confidence we have in our model, and I would like to thank our people for their incredible efforts and our clients for their trust. Nonetheless, we remain cautious in what is a still very challenging environment.”

Sadoun is entitled to pat himself on the back. His big bets on Sapient and Epsilon (around $7bn in total) seem to be paying off and the much-vaunted Power of One finally (if slowly) becoming a reality as the holding company fields all its resources in pitches, including the current one for Asda in the UK where Leo Burnett is leading a Publicis team.

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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.