Publicis, Omnicom and IPG bounce back strongly in Q2

Three of the big ad holding companies have posted spectacular post-pandemic bouncebacks in the first half of 2021, in effect a free hit as Q2 2020 saw advertisers across the world slashing budgets. Even so the numbers look pretty impressive.

Publicis is reporting a “full recovery with all KPIs exceeding 2019 levels.” Q2 organic growth was 17.1% against a fall of 13% in 2020. US was up 15.2%, Europe 23% and Asia (less battered by the pandemic before it hammered India) 7%. For the half year as a whole growth was 9.7%.

At Omnicom Q2 organic growth across the piece was a dizzying 24%: 19.9% in the US; 37.1% in other North American markets, 23.8% in the UK, 34.5% elsewhere inEurope and 27.8% in Asia Pacific. Even Latin America, hit hard by the pandemic, increased 20.8%.

Interpublic (IPG) grew by 19.8% in Q2 including 7.4% in the US, 18.7% in the UK, 27.9% in continental Europe and 14% in Asia Pacific. Latin America surged 49%.

Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun (above) says: “In H1 overall, we posted organic growth of +9.7%, leading to an operating margin rate at 16.5%, the group’s highest ever for a first half period, while our free cash flow up 22%, at €605 million.

“What is more, we once again topped new business rankings for the first half of the year, thanks to a strong run of wins.

“For the remaining part of the year, our ability to capture a disproportionate part of our clients’ investment in data and technology means we are in a position to upgrade our 2021 guidance.

“We now expect to totally recover to pre-pandemic levels, a year ahead of our initial expectations, with full year organic growth at 7% and full recovery in H2, and an operating margin of 17%, provided there are no major deteriorations in the global sanitary situation.”

That’s it in a nutshell: the “global sanitary situation.” Covid hasn’t gone away (as the managements of Omnicom and IPG noted cautiously) and future comparatives with be tougher than Q2 2020.

But all three have coped pretty well in the most challenging of circumstances, even if that’s been at the cost of thousands of jobs. (Not the CEO’s of course, but that’s one of its benefits.)

Now we wait to see what WPP, still the biggest by revenue, has to say.

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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.