Sadoun made no mention of layoffs in the video, but did say in the video that every country leader will "curate" a cost-cutting plan that will "vary country by country."
"The world has been through many global crises but nothing like the one we are facing today," Sadoun says in the video. "I have no doubt we will overcome this crisis."
In an subsequent interview, Sadoun confirmed there have been no layoffs. He says cost planning has gone from a global holding company-led initiative into the hands of local leaders, with "leveraging resources to protect our people" being the top priority.
He says with the recent U.S. launch of Marcel, the AI platform Publicis has been building for the past three years, employees working remotely can post jobs up for grabs on projects and assignments so work gets distributed and handled by anyone available to do so during this time. He says so far "300 gigs are on Marcel."
Sadoun demurred when asked about client spending, saying only, "Every time the client suffers, we suffer with them because we are their partner ... you just have to look at our quarterly results" but declined to go into detail.
In the video, Sadoun says the pandemic has caused organic growth to "steeply decline." In Europe, organic growth fell by 9.2 percent in the first quarter due to the health crisis. "With the pandemic now intensifying in the U.S., there’s no doubt that the following quarters will be tough; actually, very tough, for everyone," Sadoun says.
In the first quarter, organic growth actually grew by 0.5 percent in North America. The Latin America region was hit the hardest, with organic growth down 10.9 percent in the first quarter. Net revenue was up 36.5 percent in North America.
The Asia-Pacific region in total was down 1.9 percent on an organic basis, but in China specifically, organic revenue was down 15.3 percent in the first quarter due to COVID-19, according to Publicis.
Other highlights in today's release include the announcement of Daniel Lobatón as Saatchi & Saatchi New York's new chief creative officer. Publicis said it also appointed Nicole Roe, former Managing Director of Leo Burnett Korea, to CEO of Publicis Groupe Korea, and Gareth Mulryan to CEO of Publicis Groupe Japan.
Publicis also pointed to new wins such as Leo Burnett picking up the creative business of Bank of America in the Middle East and a holding company win of the media and creative account of FCA in China.
"Executive pay cuts usually foreshadow bad news for shareholders and employees," says Jay Pattisall, principal analyst at Forrester, who noted that Publicis Groupe is the second holding company to announce cuts in executive compensation.
Pattisall adds that it is too early to tell what impact COVID-19 could have on future organic revenue figures. Still, he says "if Publicis Groupe’s first quarter 2020 organic revenue decline in China is any indication for what’s to come for Europe and United States, then the second half of 2020 will be an enormous challenge."