Publicis sets the pace for ad holding companies in Q3 – but growth is slowing

Publicis Groupe continues to set the pace for the ad holding companies, reporting 5.3% organic growth in Q3 2023, down from 7.3% in Q2 but still pretty respectable at a time when its rivals (who have yet to report Q3) are struggling for any growth at all.

Publicis’s media operations were the standout with data arm Epsilon also performing well. By region the US (French-owned Publicis’ biggest market) was up 3.2%, Europe 10.7% and Asia Pacific 3.8%. Publicis has slightly raised its forecast for the year to 5.5-6% growth with operating margins forecast to rise to 18%.

CEO Arthur Sadoun says: “Today we have a differentiated go-to-market proposition that allows us to gain market share; a uniquely balanced revenue mix that makes us more resilient to business cycles; and a platform organisation that enables us to post industry-high financial ratios.”

So the outlook for Publicis, already the biggest ad holding company by market valuation, looks pretty sunny although a maximum annual growth of 6% (well ahead of the sector at this stage) shows clearly their travails as they search for growth.

These results will add to pressure on WPP when it reports. WPP is still the biggest in terms of revenue and staff numbers although now less than half the market value of its French rival. WPP shares followed Publicis’ up today.

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