Publicis Groupe's philosophy is 'Viva La Difference': Jean-Yves Naouri

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | May 10, 2012
afaqs! chats with Jean-Yves Naouri, chief operating officer and member of the management board of the Publicis Groupe and executive chairman of Publicis Worldwide about the group's core brand philosophy, competition within the group and why India is not an emerging market.

Jean-Yves Naouri has held many top positions within the Publicis Groupe across geographies over the years. He has been a member of the management board since January 1, 2008 and has been the chief operating officer of Publicis Groupe SA since June, 2010. In March 2011, Naouri was named executive chairman of Publicis Worldwide.

Jean-Yves Naouri

afaqs! caught up with him at Goafest 2012 about the group's core brand philosophy, competition within the group, why India is not an emerging market but rather, a fast-growing market, and much more.


afaqs!: When you took on the role of executive chairman of Publicis Worldwide last year, you had stated that your personal goal was to shift Publicis' focus to digital and to make it the most modern and best connected network in the industry. How has this goal panned out for you?

Naouri: The focus on digital is a group effort which applies to every single brand within our group. We are making good progress and have presented our annual result in February, which shows that we have exceeded our expectations when it comes to the share of digital. We've reached the mark where 30 per cent of the group's revenue is already coming from digital. We reached this goal in 2011, a bit earlier than expected, so we now have decided to re-state our objective for the entire Publicis Groupe and move the target from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. Going forward, I think we possess the expertise and understanding to achieve this ambitious goal.

afaqs!: We've seen agencies belonging to the same parent group fight tooth and nail for the same business at the local pitch level. Is this healthy competition from the point of view of the mother brand?

Naouri: Absolutely. In fact, I would prefer it if a client prefers continuing to work with a Publicis agency rather than going to some of our competitors. So for this reason, if we have the opportunity to have more than one of our agencies invited to a pitch, improving our chances to perform and win the client, it's good. Say, if four agencies are invited and two of them, based on their individual merits, are from Publicis, it's better than just one of the four being from our group. This competition is healthy and something that we encourage. We have a very strong rule -- we don't poach clients. But if a client invites more than one of our agencies and they are all motivated to participate and defend their chances on an individual basis, then it's fine.

afaqs!: Each Publicis agency has its distinct philosophy. For instance, Saatchi & Saatchi stands for 'Lovemarks', Publicis for 'Contagious Ideas', and so on. What's the philosophy of the mother brand -- Publicis Groupe?

Naouri: We have a philosophy called 'Viva La Difference' (or 'long live the difference'). The phrase contains three languages - 'Viva' is Spanish, 'La' is French and 'Difference' is English. It means we understand cultural differences. Not every client wants the same philosophy and vision, and we can offer a variety of diverse agencies to clients.

afaqs!: You've always held a 'Watch this space' stance regarding your new ventures and M&As. Tell us something specific about your growth plans in India in the year ahead.

Naouri: There's nothing that we can reveal right now - not simply because of superstition but because sometimes when you're in conversation with agencies, you don't know where it's going to lead you; sometimes before it's done it's not done! We have plans to grow all our agencies and segments, across our creative, media, PR (public relations) and healthcare units. All our units are growing well and we will explore every growth opportunity, whether it is organic or through acquisitions. India is a very important market for us.

afaqs!: What kind of growth do you find yourself skewed towards?

Naouri: We've always wanted to have a balanced approach between organic growth and acquisitions, but our preference is to grow organically. Not because of the question of money but because we want to integrate the culture and make sure that our philosophies are well understood. But as much as I have a preference for organic growth, sometimes one needs acquisitions to fill in weaknesses in capabilities or competencies.

afaqs!: Globally, Publicis is strong in the healthcare segment but we don't hear so much about this segment in India. Is Publicis not bullish on healthcare in India or is the Indian market not conducive to the growth of healthcare?

Naouri: Maybe we don't make enough noise about this segment, but we are extremely bullish on this business and have strong cooperation from some of the best players, not just the MNCs. But yes, the market is not growing as strongly here as it is in other geographies of the world. Maybe the reason is that there's less investment in marketing in this segment. So, I agree that we should make more noise about it.

afaqs!: You've stated in the past that the notion of 'emerging markets' is an obsolete notion. Does this apply to India?

Naouri: India is definitely no longer an emerging market. It is a fast-growing market. Some delay in infrastructure has created gaps between India and other markets like China and Brazil but looks like India is catching up. We'll see things developing pretty fast here in the near future.

afaqs!: Last year, Publicis Groupe split Solutions Digitas into Digitas India and Solutions India to handle very different services. How has this fragmentation of offerings worked out for you?

Naouri: The reason why the two offerings were split is because of the different kinds of added value that they both bring to clients. They both have a very narrow focus and USP each. Digitas wanted to remain true to its soul, which is very different from the DNA of Solutions.

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