Interpublic Group of Cos. Chairman-CEO Michael Roth wasn’t shy in criticizing the competition, while discussing why his holding company has been lately outperforming some of the others in the “big six," at the UBS Global TMT Conference in New York on Monday.
Roth said IPG’s recent success (he claims the holding company is winning more business than it is losing) can be attributed to its “open architecture” business model that allows its various different agencies to work together on clients’ businesses while preserving their individual brands. He said IPG is increasingly bringing creative, media and other capabilities into the same room for clients, and that the company can “move agencies in and out to meet the needs of the clients.”
“Some of our competitors are putting all their offerings together,” Roth said, alluding to WPP’s and Publicis Groupe’s recent consolidations. “We believe in the brands we have.”
Roth also took a jab at Publicis when discussing IPG’s integration of Acxiom’s Marketing Solutions business, which it acquired for $2.3 billion in 2018. (IPG has since launched a new marketing intelligence unit called Kinesso, which works across its network of agencies to strengthen the impact of traditional and addressable media through the use of Acxiom’s data.)
“In respect to Acxiom, we’re pretty much done [integrating it],” Roth said. “If you look at some of our competitors, they’re still integrating companies that they bought five years ago, and now they have new ones.”
The comment was a not-so-veiled dig at Publicis. The French holding company has been widely criticized for its ineffectiveness to integrate Sapient, the digital network it bought for $3.7 billion in 2014—especially now in light of its recent $4.4 billion purchase of data-marketing conglomerate Epsilon.
To add insult to injury, Roth also pointed to IPG’s recent organic growth numbers, which he called “impressive” given that the company faced “4.8 percent of headwinds" in the U.S. in the third quarter. In October, despite those headwinds, IPG reported organic growth of 3.5 percent for the first nine months of 2019, and estimated that figure to be “at the high-end” of 2 percent to 3 percent for the full year.
Publicis, on the other hand, has been struggling to post organic growth (the company forecasts it will decline 2.5 percent in the full 2019 year). In a recent internal memo, Publicis Groupe Chairman-CEO Arthur Sadoun told employees that achieving organic growth in 2020 “is in the hands of everyone, and we’re expecting everyone to deliver.” WPP, which has also struggled in this area, returned to organic growth of 1.8 percent in the recent third quarter reported in October.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that IPG faced 4.8 percent of headwinds this year; that was actually in the third quarter. It also stated that the company reported 3.5 percent organic growth in the first half of the year; that should have read versus the first nine months of 2019.