The future of marketing and communications will focus on the “always connected consumer,” Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy told a group of investors attending the Goldman Sachs Communcacopia conference in New York Thursday afternoon. “Brands want to be connected to consumers, so they have to be connected, too.”
That’s why the company has focused so intently on building its digital asset base, Levy said, noting that more than one-third of the company’s revenues are now derived from digital. The goal is at least 50%, he said. In the U.S., the company is already there.
“We were the first to really bet on digital,” Levy said, suggesting that those bets will pay off big-time in the future. The company now has 18,000 digital staffers companywide and “some of the best experts in the world.”
Levy took the stage at the Goldman Sachs conference just a couple of hours after Publicis confirmed that it had agreed to acquire one of the last remaining major independent digital agencies -- Amsterdam-based LBi -- for $540 million.
Despite some bumps along the way -- including the loss of the General Motors media account, a poorly performing health-care segment and a recessionary environment in Western Europe -- Levy asserted that he and other company executives still believe “we will be delivering a good year” in 2012.
At least it will be "positive year" in terms of the financial numbers, he said.
Reasons for the optimism, he said, include a third quarter that been buoyed by greater-than-expected spending on the part of clients during the Olympic games in London. The company has also won some big accounts like Sprint.
The company is taking steps to capitalize on growth opportunities in rapidly growing markets, Levy said. Recent acquisitions in Brazil provide the holding company with “the best set of assets” in the marketing communications sector in that country in terms of both talent and clients.
China is still a work in progress, Levy said, noting that Publicis does “not have the kind of size we should have” there. Progress has been slower in India, but the company continues work on growing its presence there as well.
Another work in progress is the company’s succession plan. The nominating committee met for the first time last week, Levy reported. “We have a process.” As to how long it will take to find an executive to succeed him as CEO, Levy said he didn’t know, although he implied it could take more than a year. “ASAP, but three years would be a lot of time."