Maurice Levy

CEO, Publicis Groupe, France

Interview

May 25, 2016

/ By / New Delh

Biz@India

May 2016

World Economy: No Deep Crisis Yet

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Maurice Levy, CEO, Publicis Groupe, France

The situation in the world economy though not very positive, is not something we all were not aware about. However, we are being a bit cautious to enter Iran as that was a completely closed market until now, says Levy.
 
How important is the World Economic Forum for your company?
 
We are meeting many people and exchanging ideas. It is a unique place to see the media, the advertisers, the technologists, the start-ups, the politicians, the NGOs, all put together. It’s a place to pick the brains of the people, to feel the trends and then back home you sort out, you pick and choose, and then you apply. Every year I am doing this and every year I either find a new contract, a new contact or a new idea.
 
The current situation in the world economy is not very positive. Has the media industry also been impacted?

It’s not very positive but if you are referring to what has happened in the stock market, then that is exaggerated. Operators are over reacting. The reality of the situation is well known to everyone. We knew since a while that oil was going down, that China was not delivering and that how was the situation in Russia and Brazil. There is no new piece of information. I don’t understand why people are feeling so strongly about a slowdown when we already had the indicators, which were indicating exactly how the situation is now. Hence I believe that we have made the right investments from Publicis’ standpoint. We acquired Sapient (global marketing and consultancy company) with fantastic operation in India. We now have the capabilities to focus on new trends as a key target and new business lines. We feel pretty good about the situation. Despite the fact that global economy is not exactly where we wish it to be. Obviously, I would have preferred that we have 3.5 pc growth and that China is at 8-9 pc etc. But I feel we can deal with this economy – it is not a deep crisis economy yet. There are some areas that are difficult but then there are also areas that are good.

Which are the positive spots for you around the world?

The US – it is still very strong. Europe is coming back quite positively. We have a very strong position in India and China. Africa too is going well but it is a small market. The difficult spots are Brazil, Russia and some Latin American countries. Otherwise, we are feeling quite good.

 

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Brazil, Russia and some Latin American countries are a few difficult spots in the world economy, according to Publicis

What about the Middle East?

The Middle East country we have a good position in is Dubai. Our position in Egypt is rather solid even if we are not the number one there.

There are some other markets where our exposure is relatively limited such as Syria and Iraq. These are the hot spots where we are lagging behind because we don’t have any agencies there.

Do you see any opportunity in Iran?

We had a conversation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran at the IBC (International Business Council). He was open about what Iran is doing and quite welcoming of foreign investment. However, we are not in a rush and rather are being cautious because it is just starting. We prefer to wait and see international companies coming in for investment. We prefer to come with our clients rather than do local business in an area and country that we don’t know very well. We don’t even know the culture. The thing is, this market has been closed for so many years, which makes it extremely difficult – it is a little bit like they are coming from the space or the moon because they have been cut from the economy, the world and the competition. They have been into their own inner environment, so we have to be really cautious.

What’s the new trend in advertising industry?

The new is old that is the mobile communication, which is growing extremely fast. It is making more than 90 pc of the market growth. Everything is around data. It is the alchemy of creativity and technology, which is quite new. And the one that is emerging quite strongly is the content, where we see that it is becoming a bit like news and not only advertising. So you have a lot of things happening around content.

How is Publicis located in this domain vis-a-vis its competition?

By putting all our initiatives together, we have a strong production operation and content company. Relaxnews, our agency for leisure news is giving a lot of content for our clients’ sites in areas like leisure, tourism, beauty and cosmetics. We are in very good position.

What about your home market, France?

France is coming back progressively. Though it has suffered and is still suffering because not only we are trying to recover from the issues of the economy but also there have been terrorist attacks in November and January – all this is making it very difficult for our economy to digest.

People were a little bit scared and we witnessed a freeze for the three very important weeks – we not only had Christmas but were also preparing for the New Year. But we feel confident for the future.

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