Publicis Group CEO Maurice Levy confirmed last week that some clients cut back on ad spending late in 2011 to reach their profit goals for the year.
Levy made his comments on the issue in an interview on CNBC on Dec. 28, when most of the industry was on a break for the holidays. "Are we seeing currently advertisers cutting? Yes. Massively? No,” Levy told the Comcast-owned business news cable network.
Asked about the year ahead, Levy said he believes the biggest question for the industry is whether advertisers cut back on ad expenditures in the second half of the year after the London Summer Olympics.
For now, that's anybody’s guess.
“We’re in an era of uncertainty,” Levy said -- where it’s much more difficult to execute long-term plans than in the past. The days of being able to predict that a year ahead will be good or not are over, he said. “The new era is about short-term, quick decisions, fast-moving and uncertainties.”
Clients, he added, will continue to put pressure on agencies to deliver more for less. “We need to adapt” to that environment, he said, which is likely to be ongoing.
Asked whether job cuts were being planned at the company, Levy said no -- but that it was being “very cautious about recruitment,” and pay hikes. “We’re not planning to fire anyone,” he said.
Despite the uncertainties, Levy said he was confident that Publicis would achieve growth in 2012 higher than the industry average, which he now believes will be in the 4.5% to 5% range. He said his confidence was based on the company’s diversified capabilities, with 50% of its revenue coming from both digital and faster-growing markets.
Levy said he would remain at the helm of Publicis at least through 2012. How much longer after that will depend on how quickly the company is able to recruit a successor. As reported earlier, plans are in place to begin a formal search later this year.