Maurice Levy, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Publicis Groupe, set all speculations about his India visit to rest on Thursday, saying that any announcement related to the merged Publicis Omnicom Group (POG) – including acquisitions and the possible appointment of an India head – will come only after the merger is formalised in mid-2014.
Stating that “the merger with Omnicom is moving along quite nicely”, he added that he and John Wren, CEO, Omnicom, have always been able to deal with their differences and move forward to work out the modalities of the merger. “We have organised 70 work streams to see how we can improve, take decisions prior to the merger,” he added.
Levy explained that POG is waiting for authorisations from the European Union, Columbia and China as well as other clearances and legal procedures to be completed by the second quarter of 2014 before functioning as a merged entity. “As long as we don’t receive all the authorisations, we are competitors. I don’t want to upset the future family by discussing possibilities until we are completely merged,” Levy said.
‘Commenting on the buzz about POG taking over Sam Balsara’s agency Madison World, Levy said, “We have no conversation currently with Sam. I have great respect for what he has achieved, but there are absolutely no plans of acquisition.”
However, later during his media interaction, he said, “We are open to acquisitions in future. And we can expect some acquisitions in India in the digital/ marketing/ advertising space.”
Levy called India “a strategic market in which we want to invest”. “It has huge untapped potential. According to the World Bank, the world’s largest middle class population will be in India in 2030, so this is the market in which we can grow as the market is growing,” he added.
Saying that the Publicis Groupe started investing in digital at a time when it hadn’t yet recovered from the economic crisis of 2002, Levy said that digital and emerging markets are still the two development pillars for the group. “After the merged operations, we will double the size of emerging markets. The target is to grow the revenue share from emerging markets to 35 per cent by 2017,” he added.
On WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell’s statement that the POG structure does not make any sense, Levy quipped, “Martin Sorrell has been spending a lot of time speaking about Publicis. It is part of his job, if he doesn’t do it, he will feel that he has lost 30 per cent of his job.”
Levy will speak on India’s brand image at a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) event at New Delhi on Saturday.