Publicis Groupe chairman and chief executive Arthur Sadoun has hailed solidarity as key to protecting the advertising industry during the pandemic, but warned that he is “extremely worried for the world in many areas” as civil unrest continues across the US.
Speaking to Campaign global editor-in-chief Claire Beale today (Tuesday) during Campaign Connect – a digital two-day event discussing challenges and innovation during the coronavirus crisis – Sadoun claimed optimism for the future of the industry has been clouded by “people dying”.
“When I saw what happened in the US this week, it prevented me from sleeping,” Sadoun began. “We have an impact on this society, so I’m not going to say I am optimistic for the future when I see the line of events that is happening now.
“I’m just trying to fight. I’m fighting for my people and I’m fighting for my clients. I’m trying to look positive, but at the end of the day I am extremely worried for the world in many areas and we will have to play a role somewhere.”
In spite of a 2.9% fall in organic growth for the first quarter of 2020 – a figure that Sadoun expects will be similar in the coming quarter – he encouraged fellow industry leaders to be “resilient” and “transparent” as adland moves towards what many are referring to as the “new normal”.
He noted: “I think that the new normal is going to be this uncertainty and we’re going to have to live with it for a while.”
‘Fighting to save jobs’
Publicis’ journey towards this “new normal” has seen the company make redundancies across its UK operation as part of a “cost reduction plan”.
However, last Friday, Sadoun held a weekly video call with his employees in which he claimed Publicis had avoided roughly 2,000 redundancies in the past two months by working “within Publicis” and dispersing workers across the company to ensure all work is being shared and completed effectively.
“Fighting to make sure we can save as many jobs as we can is the biggest fight we’re having,” he said.
In an attempt to accommodate the needs of workers, Publicis opted to open one office in each city that can be used for tech support, client meetings or for those who are unable to work at home.
Sadoun also claimed that the company will support anyone who needs to stay at home until the end of year at global level.
He explained: “There will be some changes, but we need to embrace them. We need to be careful in not taking any risk in the well-being of our people, which is going to be very difficult in such a time of uncertainty.
“I’m not trying to manage what is not manageable – I’m focusing on taking care of my people, taking care of my clients and making sure that we fast-forward our strategy.”
Support for small agencies
Taking economic pressures into account, Sadoun called on agency leaders to support smaller creative shops and production companies that may be at risk of going under.
“Start thinking about what makes the richness of our industry: the creative agencies, small studios and small production companies,” he said. “These are the ones that are going to suffer most in the short term and these are the ones which need to be protected.
“The question of solidarity is something that should not only be raised at holding company level; it’s something that is way bigger.
“We all have a responsibility. It’s not time for gossip – it’s time to take a stand for people, protect jobs in our industry and demonstrate to clients the value that our entire ecosystem is bringing to them.”
‘Personalisation at scale’
With a focus on the role of creativity, Sadoun called on clients to invest in digital experiences.
He said: “Creativity serves a purpose and this purpose is to bring value to the product and services you are selling. In an economy where we are going to see a rise in unemployment, justifying the premium will have never been so important.
“Digital experience is going to be more important than ever and personalisation at scale is going to be the thing that everyone will have to deliver. Bringing technology at the heart of your process will make the difference.”