French agency group Publicis has spoken frequently in recent years of its “balanced revenue mix”, with one third of revenues coming from media, one third coming from creative, and one third coming from ‘tech and data’ – which is business generated by its specialist units Sapient and Epsilon. Indeed the company cites this balance as a key factor explaining its strong performance compared with other agency groups.
This split doesn’t strictly hold, as revenues within these three categories have grown at different rates. In Publicis’ most recent results released today, the company announced double-digit full year growth in media, low single-digit growth in creative, ten percent growth in Epsilon, and three percent growth in Sapient (which was down 4.4 percent year-on-year in Q4).
But while executives still reference this equal split, they’re also increasingly talking about how these three broad segments overlap and feed into each other. And the company’s investments in data and AI are designed to drive this cross-pollination.
On an earnings call following the results, Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun spoke about how Publicis’ creative revenues are increasingly coming from production, rather than traditional creative, and that the company sees an opportunity in this shift.
“What makes us very confident in production, and the fact that it’s going to be a growth engine that we can use to differentiate from our peers, is that production – like media – is going to be about data and technology,” he said. “I think the big question we’ve seen over the past five years is how do you link data with media and deliver personalisation at scale. The next big question is going to be how do you link data with production, thanks to tech, to be able to deliver content which is truly personalised.”
And as data feeds into both media and creative, those two pillars themselves are being brought closer together. When asked about the three-way business split, and how it is changing, Sadoun replied that “you would be surprised at the number of media pitches we are winning because we’re infusing some creativity into them”.
“So although you will see the revenue streams increasing in the future in some areas and decreasing in others, it’s going to be more integrated every day because at the end of the day, that is our strength,” he added. “Our strength is to connect data with creative, media, and technology like no one else.”
Publicis pulls away from the pack
The comments came on the back of another set of solid financial results for the company, which posted 5.7 percent organic revenue growth in Q4, and 6.3 percent growth for the full year. The company is forecasting between 4-5 percent growth for 2024.
While not all of the other major agency groups have reported full-year results yet, it’s clear from previous quarterly results that Publicis will have delivered the strongest full-year growth of all the major groups. Sadoun spoke on the call of “pulling away from the pack”, and said he expects his company to outperform its competitors this year and in the coming years.
As VideoWeek reported last year, Publicis certainly has some unique assets which are driving its growth. But many of its strategic decisions – investing in AI and data, breaking down barriers between agencies – are being echoed by its competitors. Publicis may feel it’s outgrowing its league – the rest of the major agency groups will likely feel confident they can prove it wrong.