Jean-Yves Naouri, chief operating officer for the Publicis Groupe, has been making frequent trips to India in recent years. India remains a crucial market for the Paris-headquartered advertising network, third after WPP and Omnicom in revenue. Naouri was a speaker at the first day of the Goafest and attended Publicis’ India board meet, at the same venue. He spoke to Viveat Susan Pinto & Sayantani Kar as he rushed from one meet to the next. Edited excerpts:
Publicis has taken small steps in India on acquisitions. Now that rivals such as Omnicom have made big leaps (with acquisition of majority stake in Mudra), won’t you reconsider taking baby steps?
We are always open to acquisitions, big or small. But our strategy has been a mix of organic and inorganic. Not inorganic alone. We base our decisions to acquire a company on a number of factors, including whether the organisation is a right fit in our scheme of things. Whatever we did acquire so far has worked well for us, whether the acquisition of Capital Advertising in Delhi or of PR agency 2020Media or social media consulting firm 2020 Social or the buyout of Mumbai-based healthcare firm Watermelon.
They have all helped us get a foothold in the areas we were looking at. Alongwith this, we have worked on strengthening our own operations internally. If you are asking me whether I will abandon this, my answer is No.
But India’s contribution to your emerging markets revenue is actually small. How do you propose to change that?
I don’t deny that India’s contribution is small. We do want to accelerate that pace. As I said earlier, if a big acquisition does come our way, I don’t think we would say No. First and foremost, the assets have to be there. Second, the acquisition has to fit in with our overall strategy and thinking.
Saatchi & Saatchi in India has turned a new leaf with the restructuring and new management at the agency. Can we expect something big out of Saatchi, since it has a strong creative reputation abroad?
Our endeavour is that in every market, Saatchi & Saatchi be identified as a strong creative agency.
In India, that has not been the case. We would like to correct that perception here. The first steps have been taken with the appointment of Matt Seddon as CEO of the India unit. Tim Roberts, the global CEO, was here to speak to clients and employees. There is a new energy in that agency. It will begin to show in their work.
Your emerging markets revenue is 25 per cent. How much do you intend taking it up to?
If you take digital and emerging markets, two important focus areas for us, our revenues stand at 55 per cent — 30 per cent being digital and 25 per cent from emerging markets.
Our aim is to take this 55 per cent to 75 per cent.
What timeline have you set for this?
I will not state the exact timeline for this. We would like to do this in the next few years.
While the Publicis Groupe has digital agency Digitas in India, some of your big acquisitions in the digital space such as Razorfish and Rosetta, which you paid top dollars to acquire, are not here. Why?
Rather than getting individual brands, we are encouraging all our agencies within the group to build their digital capabilities. That way, we will harness our digital capabilities better than focusing on individual brands. As far as a pure-play digital agency goes, Digitas is doing its job. We’d rather focus on how our group agencies can build their digital strengths.