The man in charge of Publicis Groupe’s new ‘Business Transformation’ practice tells M&M Global why media remains a powerful force for change.
If the recent troubles of global media agencies are anything to go by, it would seem that more of those business should practise what they preach – and learn from the disruption-busting advice they dole out to advertisers.
Publicis Groupe appears to have taken that old-fashioned pearl of wisdom to heart with its latest offering, quite literally advising clients based on its own experience of redrawing the structure and operating model of its agencies.
Let us rewind a moment to last year’s dramatic announcements by CEO Maurice Levy.
First of all, the Paris-based group devised four ‘hubs’ to house its creative, media, digital and healthcare agencies: Publicis Communications, Publicis Media, Publicis Sapient and Publicis Healthcare.
Then, within Publicis Media, chief executive Steve King and the leadership team reshuffled the pack, coming up with four ‘new’ agencies, namely Zenith, Starcom, Mediavest|Spark and Optimedia|Blue 449.
Those agencies have access to six practises, covering areas such as content, digital trading, audience insights and business transformation. The latter practice, led by global president, strategy and transformation Richard Hartell, is arguably the most interesting – seeing Publicis take the fight back to the technology and consultancy giants that have been encroaching on to its terrain.
Speaking to M&M Global at this month’s Dmexco ad tech extravaganza in Cologne, Hartell insists agency groups like Publicis Media are still able to play a key role in cutting through the “sheer complexity” espoused by tech firms, and helping clients to reach all-important insights.
He acknowledges the arrival of rivals such as IBM, Oracle and Deloitte as serious players in the marketing communications space, but contests the ability of these firms to revolutionise clients’ businesses with words and wires alone.
“In media you also have a great history of accountability and measurement, and being data-driven”
“I don’t believe you can completely consult your way to the future. You have to combine that with a creative leap,” he says. “It’s an incredibly contested space, but what I feel we have is a history of understanding the consumer, and a history of creativity.
“In media you also have a great history of accountability and measurement, and being data-driven. Put those things together, it is incredibly powerful in helping clients to make the leap to the future they need to make.”
While large systems integrator and accountancy giants would argue that advertisers must look internally at procedures and structures as an agent for change, Hartell claims that media remains one of the greatest catalysts available for brands seeking a defence against disruption.
“Our clients are all struggling in some ways with the disruption that is happening because of technology, and how that is creating a new expectation from their customers. They are all trying to transform,” he says.
“Steve King and the rest of the leadership strongly believe in the power of media as a transformative force. It is transformative because it is where disruption is happening the most; it is transformative because of the amount of data we have. We felt it was the right time to elevate our conversation with clients to the next level.”
And Hartell insists that clients are enthused by Publicis Groupe’s own counter-attack against disruption, rather than being concerned the organisation is in need of a rethink: “Clients want to know how it is going for us, because they then say, ‘Can you now help us do it?’
“We are in real lock-step with our clients. We are helping clients with their transformation because of what we are doing.”