Publicis Drops Kaplan Thaler Moniker

North American Flagship Will Return to Publicis New York Name

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Andrew Bruce
Andrew Bruce

Many agencies are laying low after a week of excess at Cannes. But not Publicis Worldwide.

First, the company announced yesterday that CEO Arthur Sadoun would also become CEO of PR network MSLGroup. Then just earlier today, Heineken confirmed that Publicis would be its new global agency.

Now Publicis Worldwide has confirmed it will drop the Kaplan Thaler moniker altogether and return to referring to itself as Publicis New York.

The move comes nearly three years after Publicis' flagship New York office and Kaplan Thaler merged, creating the largest North American location for Publicis Worldwide. The name change is not much of a surprise at this point, though, given Publicis Kaplan Thaler's website already redirects to Publicis North America's, and rumors of the shift have swirled in recent months.

Publicis North American CEO Andrew Bruce said that the name change was part of a larger move to align the agency, presenting Publicis North America's operations as a "united force" to foster growth. "Having the name Publicis Kaplan Thaler in New York caused a disconnect" with the rest of the North American region, he said, particularly after Publicis Worldwide's Canada and U.S. operations were combined and brought under Mr. Bruce's leadership in December 2013.

Naming Mr. Sadoun, an executive some speculate could be an eventual successor to Maurice Levy at the Publicis Groupe level, as the new leader of MSL Group in addition to his role at Publicis is a move designed to better integrate capabilities from both agencies. Mr. Sadoun in October 2013 was named CEO of Publicis Worldwide after serving as the namesake agency's head of Europe. Since his arrival he has worked to turn the agency around, in part by improving digital capabilities, and has been aggressive on the new-business front.

Though the agency did lose Hilton's Homewood Suites earlier this year, the account is small potatoes compared to the Cadillac win in December, which Mr. Sadoun called the biggest win for the agency in a decade via an internal memo that went out about the Heineken win Tuesday.

Kaplan Thaler founder Linda Kaplan Thaler will continue in her role as chairman of the New York office, and Susan Gianinno will remain North American chairman of Publicis Worldwide.

Kaplan Thaler was founded in 1997, and Ms. Kaplan Thaler for years ran the agency with partner Robin Koval until Ms. Koval left the agency in October 2013, some 16 months after the merger of Publicis and Kaplan Thaler. Her role was never filled, and Mr. Bruce has been acting as the New York leader, which he will continue to do.

Publicis in the U.S. has other agencies with names that vary slightly from the Publicis moniker. Publicis Hal Riney in San Francisco will keep its name, for example, as will Publicis Hawkeye in Dallas.

Fewer than two weeks ago, Publicis named Andy Bird chief creative officer of the agency's New York office.

"This is an exciting new era at Publicis, with New York at the very center," said Ms. Kaplan Thaler in a statement. "Kaplan Thaler is truly part of the Publicis DNA, and we are proud of the evolution that this name-change represents. I could not imagine a better salute to what we have all created together here in New York than to have our office carry forward the flagship banner under the global brand name and identity."

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