Sadoun: Traditional Holding Company Model 'Needs To Be Left Behind'

With the debate about the relevancy of big legacy holding companies in light of Sir Martin Sorrell's departure from WPP, Publicis Groupe's chairman/CEO Arthur Sadoun weighed in Thursday, telling MediaPost he believes that the traditional model is outdated and "needs to be left behind."

"Everything in the industry has changed — the media landscape, clients, consumers — but not holding companies,” Sadoun said.

As for Publicis Groupe, Sadoun said, the Groupe has been evolving away from the traditional model for several years, starting with his predecessor Maurice Levy's “Power of One” strategy. And when Sadoun ascended to the top job nearly a year ago, he outlined his future plans to leave behind the legacy holding company silos.

Today, "we are the only company in the world that can connect data, content and technology to deliver one-to-one consumer engagement at scale," asserts Sadoun. "No one [of our rivals] can bring all three." Deloitte and Accenture, for instance, specialize in technology and consulting, and Google and Facebook are strong with data. And while direct competitors Omnicom, WPP and IPG might disagree with Sadoun’s assessment, he says their strengths are mainly in the content and communications sectors.

The Groupe's transformation has enabled the company to win market share, largely as a result of account wins last year including McDonald’s, Diesel, Lionsgate, Bradesco and Southwest. Although Sadoun declines to identify any upcoming pitch reviews, specifically Volkswagen, he says the Groupe is involved in several "big ones."

Just as agencies are transforming themselves for future growth, Sadoun believes clients need to undergo similar makeovers. Rather than view agencies as an off-site provider of services, Sadoun believes there is no alternative other than to view the relationship as a true partnership. In fact, the recent scandals at Facebook underscore this evolving alliance as clients turn to their partners to guide them to effective and safe opportunities. "This just reinforces our role as curators of content."

Still, trust and transparency will be challenged with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set to become law next month. Despite the fact that the standards for data collection and use in the EU will significantly differ from those in the United States, overall "the influence is a good thing," he says. "Clients need to take control of their own data. GDRP has been initiated by the EU and I hope it can be expanded to the rest of the world."

Looking forward, Sadoun will host 15 top Publicis leaders along with high-level Microsoft executives on May 24 in Paris to officially unveil the "unboxing of the platform Marcel," named after the founder of Publicis, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet.

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