[This story was corrected May 22, noting that it misstated CEO Maurice Levy’s remarks at a media conference in New York. He did not say a decision may be made in November but rather that the board will begin discussions then. The firm supplied this transcript of his statement on the matter: “And regarding succession, the Board will start mid-November, end of November, latest will be announcement in February.” ]
Publicis Groupe may announce a new CEO as early as November, according to CEO Maurice Levy, who confirmed that his retirement date is set for May 20, 2017.
But after he relinquishes the CEO post, it’s likely he will continue to play a role at the holding company Levy said in remarks he made at a Goldman Sachs media conference in New York on Tuesday.
“Should I play a role or not? Probably yes,” Levy told the gathering. “What kind of role? Maybe doorman,” he quipped. “The uniform is beautiful and that is what people are probably expecting of me.”
It’s widely believed that Levy’s successor will come from inside the company and Levy said nothing at the conference to downplay the speculation. Arthur Sadoun, who oversees the holding company’s creative agency operations, is considered the inside executive most likely to succeed Levy, although the current CEO didn’t get into names at the Goldman Sachs conference.
What he did say was, “We will have a good succession. We have great talent and I feel personally very comfortable,” that the company will be in good hands when he steps down.
Commenting on last year’s so-called “Mediapalooza,” Levy acknowledged that the company has not yet off-set the losses the Groupe sustained despite some big wins since then, including HP Enterprise. Those losses, including Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble, were for the most part “clients with the longest tenure” at the agency, which he made a point of comparing with WPP’s recent loss of AT&T.
“Clients are attracted to newness,” Levy said. A lesson, if there is one, is that agencies can never assume any client will remain satisfied with its offering for long. “You have to win it again and again and renew your services and approach.”
On transparency, which Levy said largely relates to the programmatic sphere, Publicis has largely opted to be “totally transparent.” That said, a small minority of clients have indicated that they want to buy programmatic media for a certain price and don’t really care about the details.
On the company’s recent reorganization, Levy said that much of it was focused on feedback from clients. The new approach provides separate P&Ls for individual clients while Group Client Leaders, he said, act as “a kind of CEO tapping resources throughout the organization.” So far he added client satisfaction levels have increased “big time.”