Jean-Yves Naouri is the chief operating officer of the Paris-headquartered Publicis Groupe, the third-largest advertising and marketing services company after WPP and Omnicom. In the last few years, the Maurice-Levy-led group has been the most aggressive amongst its peers, wrapping up buys in digital, healthcare and public relations in India. This year alone the company has had four acquisitions - three in digital and one in the brand consultancy space in the country. The group has been equally aggressive on the advertising side, acquiring and then merging Delhi-based Capital Advertising with flagship agency Publicis Worldwide, restructuring operations at Saatchi & Saatchi India and now pushing BBH following acquisition of the balance 49% stake in the agency globally six months ago. Naouri throws light in an interview with Viveat Susan Pinto on Publicis Groupe's ambitions in India and why he remains bullish about the country despite WPP's strong hold here. Edited Excerpts:
What is the contribution from emerging markets for Publicis?
At the moment, fast-growing or emerging markets contribute about 25% to our overall revenues. But this will grow as we go forward given the potential we see in these markets. If I club digital and fast-growing markets, the contribution to our topline is 50%. Our intention is to take it up to 75% in the next few years. And we are confident we can achieve this. Our investments in the last few years have been in these two areas primarily because we see growth coming out of these two segments. They are key drivers for us.
You have been consolidating recent digital buys under individual group agencies such as Indigo under Leo Burnett, Resultrix under media agency ZenithOptimedia and the current iStrat under flagship Publicis Worldwide. Do you have any plans to acquire digital assets for Saatchi & Saatchi since they intend to have digital at the core of their offering?
In my conversation with the Saatchi & Saatchi team here, the message I've received is that they would like to grow their digital presence organically by hiring good people. They are not looking at the inorganic route to grow their digital presence. We will support them in their endeavour. Our culture is such where we allow individual agencies to assert themselves and have their own thinking. They do not feel stifled that way.
This autonomy is what helps you keep creative agencies such as Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) and Saatchi & Saatchi under the Publicis umbrella?
That is true. BBH stands tall in its ambition to drive creative work and so does Saatchi & Saatchi. We are happy to have both in our family. We just had the Publicis Groupe board meet in Mumbai, and it was great to see the Indian unit of BBH as part of it besides our other group agencies This was for the first time that BBH was a part of the board meet since the acquisition of the 49% stake six months ago.
Razorfish and Rosetta are two big Publicis agency brands in the digital space, which are not present in India. When do you intend to bring them here?
We are working on it. A few days ago we announced that we were expanding Rosetta's 10-year e-commerce partnership with IBM to cover not just the US but other markets too. As part of the initiative, we will use IBM’s Smarter Commerce technology platform and its software to develop four e-commerce hubs around the globe that will be located in the US, Western Europe, China and Latin America. Given that e-commerce is growing in India, this market will not be ignored. The idea of the partnership is to enhance the ability of marketers to reach out and engage with shoppers online. Since the partnership is between Rosetta and IBM, the former will find its way here. The same goes for Razorfish, which we acquired from Microsoft in 2009. The online space has been growing in India. Brands like Razorfish will eventually come to India.
Given the investment in digital assets whether organically or inorganically in India, will you at any stage look at converting the country into a hub at least in the Asian region for your digital activities?
That is something that we are considering. But it is too early to indicate anything yet.