Sadoun Talks Transformation Challenges, Talent Changes And The Power Of One

As Publicis Groupe grapples with the broader industry challenges facing all legacy holding companies, CEO/Chairman Arthur Sadoun speaks to MediaPost about several reasons why his company is best positioned to thrive in tomorrow’s landscape.

For one, Sadoun continues to believe data provider Epsilon is the “game changer” citing the importance of first-party data, particularly in light of Google’s recent decision to eliminate cookies. “The higher the walled garden, the higher the opportunity,” he quips.

While Sadoun is quick to credit the data provider with helping the Groupe win new business — Mondelez, Bank of America, and Key Bank are among the new clients — he declines to provide details about these pitches, citing confidentiality.

He broadly explains how clients can learn about rivals through credit card transactions — Epsilon tracks 55% of non-cash transactions — that serve as bread crumbs to build a full picture. For instance, frequent moviegoers may be more amenable to streaming services. Or one streaming service subscriber may be tempted to join another if offered a discount.

Sadoun acknowledges that several senior-level executives departed the company in 2019 — including Nick Law and Emma Montgomery, among others — but he dismisses any “talent exodus.” "We need different leaders to march the company into the future," he says.



The company is not static. Publicis has grown from a $5 billion to a $10 billion company — largely through its acquisitions — in 10 years. These changes mean injecting a lineup of new faces to serve as leaders, Sadoun asserts. 

The Groupe’s purchase of Sapient five years ago may have been too soon both in terms of business financials and the client willingness to embrace new strategic approaches. CMOs weren’t addressing transformation back then, says Sadoun. Now, they understand the opportunities Sapient presents when packaged with Groupe services. Sadoun sees Sapient as key to helping the Groupe regain its organic growth in 2020.

He concedes that it can be tough to oversee 80,000 global employees, but he tries to remain hands-on and relatable. Sadoun quietly went on a 8- to-9-U.S. city roadshow in third quarter of 2019 to personally interact with Groupe leaders. At each town hall, some 150 attendees listened to him for 20 minutes while having another hour dedicated to Q&A.

One source of questioning centered around specifics regarding the Groupe’s much-lauded Power of One strategy. How does it work on a granular level? Is it by client or country? 

Sadoun explains that the Power of One positioning is designed to remove revenue and attribution. If a client can grow faster with a creative agency over an experiential shop, the Groupe shifts the business without worrying about the P&L implications. 

Marcel’s rollout continues to evolve, but Sadoun says a full global rollout is being planned. Currently Marcel is being tested and used by Groupe staffers in the U.K.
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