As Publicis Groupe Eyes New Plan, It Adds Three Digital Shops

Two Agencies in Africa and One in Mexico Demonstrate a Drive for Digital in Response to the Failed Merger With Omnicom

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Arthur Sadoun
Arthur Sadoun

As Publicis Groupe works towards a restructure in the wake of the failed $35 billion mega-merger with Omnicom, the French communications giant has demonstrated its increased focus on digital again by acquiring three agencies -- two in Africa, and one in Latin America -- with digital at their core.

The agencies -- South African agency Prima, pan-African network AG Partners, and Lead2Action in Mexico -- are just the latest acquisitions to underline Publicis Groupe's digital ambitions.

"We keep focusing on strengthening our digital offering and worldwide footprint for the best benefit of our clients in the regions," said Arthur Sadoun, CEO of the Publicis Worldwide network, in a statement. Mr. Sadoun is considered by some a likely candidate to run Publicis Groupe someday.

"I am confident that we will become the preferred creative partner of our clients in their own digital transformation on both a local and worldwide level. LatAm and Africa are key regions for Publicis Worldwide," Mr. Sadoun added.

Call for executives' ideas
The expansion in these fast-growing regions comes as all Publicis Groupe network CEOs, including Mr. Sadoun, work to find a new strategic plan for the world's third largest communications group. Maurice Lévy, 72, Publicis Groupe chairman and CEO, wants to become closer to an internet company than an advertising group and has asked top executives to propose ideas toward that end this month.

"As Publicis Groupe always does, there is a participative exercise: all network CEOs have been invited to propose their ideas, suggestions, proposals on a broad scheme for the new strategic plan and within a framework and clear strategic guidelines," a spokeswoman said via email, confirming a report of the exercise by The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Lévy has imposed a July 14 deadline for ideas to be submitted. The date is significant: It's a public holiday in France – Bastille Day -- commemorating the beginning of the 1789 French Revolution.

Omnicom Group, for its part, has already made its first major move towards adapting for the future after the failure of the merger, which would have created the world's largest communications group. It named Troy Ruhanen yesterday as the new global CEO of at TBWA, moving his predecessor Tom Carroll up to the chairman role.

Prima, founded in 1994, is based in Cape Town and has around 50 staffers, with clients including Adidas, BMW, Mini, Monster and Virgin Active. It will operate as part of Publicis Worldwide's Arc network, and be rebranded as Prima Arc.

AG Partners is a network of 14 agencies across 13 francophone countries in Africa, including Senegal, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, France and Mali. Clients include Microsoft, Western Union and Cisco.

Kevin Tromp, CEO of Sub Saharan Africa at Publicis Groupe, said in a statement, "Africa's time has come. We are seeing constant signs of positive growth and important investments from our international clients, in every sector. That's why we have been making these simultaneous moves across the continent." Publicis Groupe also bought South Africa's Lighthouse Digital in February.

Lead2Action, a ten year-old Mexican digital agency with 120 staff, will become part of Publicis Mexico. Its clients include Best Buy, Hasbro and P&G.

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