Publicis Groupe Reinvests Itself In Online Advertising

mauricelevyWith the collapsed Omnicom merger in May behind it, Publicis Groupe has reinvested in its advertising businesses -- making more than a dozen acquisitions this year, including the $3.7 billion all-cash deal to acquire Sapient Nitro announced Monday.

Maurice Lévy said in a conference call that the acquisition was driven by the need to broaden services to clients and adding new revenue streams. 

The digital agencies Publicis has bought during the past decade for several billion dollars have not resulted in meaningfully different top-line results vs. peers for the holding company, Brian Wieser, senior research analyst at Pivotal Research Group, wrote in a research note. Being more aggressive in buying digital agencies than its peers has not helped its growth rate in comparison to its peers, he explained.



"This may be due to several factors in part or combination (perhaps because at other holding companies digital services are important to all types of agencies, whether their revenues are characterized as digital or not; alternately as agencies become larger, their growth rates naturally slow)," Wieser wrote. "The risk that growth slows at Sapient is one of the transaction's more important considerations."

In October, after forming a partnership with Adobe, Publicis acquired San Diego-based 3|SHARE, an expert and partner in Adobe's Business Plus Level Solutions. The company brought along 50 employees and clients like ASICS, Chevron, Honeywell, and La Quinta Inns & Suites.

The holding company also sealed a strategic partnership with Tel Aviv-based Matomy Media Group Ltd., a digital performance-based advertising company, by acquiring 20% of its shares at a price of 227 pence per share.

It made three acquisitions in South Africa, also in October: BrandsRock, focused on brand engagement; Liquorice, a digital marketing agency; and MACHINE, an integrated media agency.

September saw Publicis swallow Italy-based Ambito5, integrating the social media agency into Saatchi & Saatchi Italy. During the same month, the company acquired Berlin-based zweimaleins GmbH, a business-to-business (B2B) integrated marketing agency. The company integrates into Saatchi & Saatchi to create Saatchi & Saatchi Pro, a B2B-focused agency with more than 40 specialists serving Saatchi & Saatchi clients in Germany and greater Europe.

Not all investments came in the form of an acquisition. Publicis and AOL announced an expansion of a six-year relationship into programmatic video and linear TV. The deal, reported in September, supports the programmatic market that eMarketer estimates will reach $7.77 billion in 2015, up from $5.96 billion in 2014.

In July, Performics -- a division of ZenithOptimedia and the performance marketing group within Publicis -- announced the expansion and re-alignment of their service offering. Performics’ updated structure will deliver more holistic cross-channel strategies and activation plans that drive down the cost of biddable media, while increasing clients' return on investment.

Pivotal's Wieser notes three risks for all agency holding companies: squeezing fees from clients, competition from adjacent professional services industries and reduced competition between marketers in individual categories, which drives total demand for advertising and agency services.

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