The last 18 months have been exhausting, relentless and very exciting for Steve King, Global Chief Executive of Publicis Media, in his own words. King, who has been with the network in various roles since 1988, led the formation of Publicis Media, which comprised five global brands—Starcom, Zenith, Mediavest | Spark, Blue449, and Performics, and donned his current role in January last year.
“Our structure was too complicated, we have simplified our story and structure, and now moved to a single P&L structure where one works with a common goal. We created a new model, scaled up with an insight to leverage our capabilities at scale. The truth is if our clients are being disrupted, and we are to help them transform, we better transform ourselves first,” says King.
Edited Excerpts –
What are two lessons you can share of your experience over the last 18 months?
I really feel you must have the combination of IQ and EQ. Today, the world is so complex and you may feel you need more IQ, but the truth is EQ today plays a far more important role in connecting with the management and various segments. You need to be a connector, and maybe I have a strength in that area, it is ultimately a people’s business.
You have said when you took over this role you thought the chances of succeeding were very remote, why is that?
That is because we did not want to over-claim.
Is that something you are saying in hindsight now?
See, we were putting distinct cultures together and a larger number of mergers are usually failures. We had three distinctive good businesses and we were going to create a single business in each market with a good leader, I thought maybe the cultures would overpower the simplicity of the business and come in the way of the changes we wanted to make, but I was wrong in terms of the business in media, there have been no issues, I have been surprised with this growth and it was embraced very positively.
How much does India contribute to global revenues?
Publicis Media India is nearly $1 billion in billings and is ranked #2 in APAC, in the Publicis Media Network (Source: RECMA).
What has been the growth rate for Publicis Media in the last 15 months?
It is easily three or four times the market growth rate and we intend to continue on that momentum and the drivers for that have been our acquisitions that has done very well for us. We have invested in areas we feel are important and we had a good run with our events. We have been growing three times for the last three years but it is more credible now because when you grow at that rate then your base also grows. We have grown at 40 per cent, roughly.
What are the growth and revenue targets for next year, in India?
We expect to grow at minimum double the market rate.
How has this transformation of Publicis Media helped? What have been the tangible business advantages?
With our transformation, Publicis Media has established strong leadership, streamlined and scaled capabilities and redefined our brand proposition, which has led to a very successful first year.
In terms of new business, we have $7+ billion billings of new businesses won, which includes P&G, Coty, Molson Coors, Fiat Chrysler, Mars, Visa, Bel and Merck.
What role do media agencies play in the future marketing landscape?
With machine learning and automation coming to the forefront of our industry, it is imperative that media agencies make investment in AI so that we are not just serving a transactional service. AI is the most disruptive technology, accelerating from $589mm to $5+ billion in the last 5 years. In fact, it has been the most disruptive in telecoms, airlines, consumer electronics, automotive and fast food categories, according to the Predictor Study. AI will automate processes driving more efficiencies and faster connectivity of marketing data with enterprise data, resulting in shifts in marketing department structures.
A first, Zenith launched machine learning algorithms for our client, Aviva wherein we precisely attributed sales conversions to specific digital interactions and optimised external media activity. This resulted in brand benefit from 6% CPQ improvement on car searches and 10% improvement in CPQ on display advertising.