IPG, Publicis: 3Q Growth, But Clients Tighten Spending

RothLeading holding companies Interpublic and Publicis Groupe said Tuesday there are signs that clients are starting to tighten the reins on spending as the economic roller coaster continues. But both argued that they are prepared for the path ahead.

IPG CEO Michael Roth said it was business as usual over the first nine months of the year, but the last 90 days have brought some spending reticence with the credit desert. "We're seeing it beginning to weigh on marketers' plans for both the fourth quarter and 2009," he said. "This makes the prospects of a slowdown in client spend more of a risk."

Roth said some clients have showed "increased caution" of late, but "there is no clear pattern to it." Company-wide, clients have recently canceled marketing initiatives worth perhaps $75 million, he said. Going forward, IPG's services in multiple disciplines and broad global presence should help its performance--regardless of where things are going, he said.

Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy sounded a similar tune, saying the company experienced limited impact from the financial crisis in the April-June period, but recently has seen a slowdown. "We have entered the trouble zone, and it is very difficult to predict, as of today, the intensity or the duration of that turbulence," Levy said.

"(Clients) are not panicking," he added. "They are managing the situation very cautiously, and so far from what we can see, making reasonable cuts. They are trying to reduce and manage their costs and at the same time, protect their market share."

Levy said Publicis has a diverse client base as well as diversified offerings that should help it in the months ahead.

Both Roth and Levy spoke as their respective companies released third-quarter results. Meanwhile, Aegis Group, which operates media agency Carat, said in a statement that it is "difficult to forecast accurate levels of client spend for the fourth quarter."

Even as client reluctance set in, both IPG (particularly) and Publicis reported solid organic growth in the third quarter--up 7.6% and 3.9%, respectively. Revenues were up 11.5% and 5.1%, respectively.

Aegis reported its performance for the first nine months of the year, with organic growth up 7.3% (8.8% for its media operations).

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