On the eve of Publicis’ 2014 earnings release, CEO Maurice Levy shared some surprising anxieties about how the so-called “sharing economy” could impact classical approaches to brand marketing.
“We are in this empowerment age of consumers,” Levy said in an interview with EuroBusiness Media, released by Publicis early Thursday morning. “And if our clients are not taking into account these two giant forces, they are at the risk of being ubered. This is what I call uberization coming from Uber.”
Levy, of course, was referring to crowdsourced car-driving service Uber, which has disrupted the taxi and limousine industry and has become the poster child for other sharing economy models such as Airbnb, etc.
The other giant force Levy was alluding to was the broader trend of convergence: “convergence of business models, convergence of digital, convergence of tools, everything is changing quite radically the way we are doing business.”
Levy shared his angst as part of an explanation for Publicis’ acquisition of Sapient, which he described not as an agency or marketing services business, but as a “highly advanced technology company.
“Why Sapient is so important?,” he pondered, turning a little existential about the ad business: “Maybe let’s start with something which is extremely important, which is ‘Where are we today?’ and ‘Where are the businesses going to?’”
Levy implied that the Sapient deal -- including what some outside observers have groused was done at a market premium -- was all about the tech play. More so than the “storytelling” part:
“The acquisition of Sapient is extremely important, first because it is changing the landscape in which we are operating and the size of the pie. The pie we are working on is a pie which is about marketing, storytelling, which is between $400 billion and $500 billion, and maybe $600 billion – nobody knows exactly what the number is. On top of this, there is consulting to help our clients transform their business: this is a market of $134 billion. And the technology services which represent close to a trillion [$900 billion]. So, this is a $1 trillion prize because, obviously, we are not offering all the technology services and we are not offering all the consulting services. So all in all, the area in which we will be operating will be doubling the size of the one in which we are operating today.”