We are working for consumers, not advertiser clients: Publicis CEO Maurice Levy

Carolin Roth, Lucy Handley, special to CNBC
Jason Alden | Bloomberg via Getty Images

The outgoing chief executive of Publicis Groupe, one of the world's largest advertising agencies, has said that consumers, rather than advertisers, are the focus of its efforts in a changing media landscape.

"We believe that we are working for the advertisers. In reality, we are working for the consumers," said Maurice Levy, during the latest episode of CNBC's "Marketing Media Money" TV show. "We should never forget that the most important person in our dealing, despite the fact that that person is not part of the contract, is the consumer."

Asked whether he sees the likes of Google and Facebook as 'frenemies' as WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell has previously said, or whether they are rivals, friends or partners, Levy answered: "Yes, definitely partners, and I think that we have to work with them, and they are great partners.

Publicis CEO Maurice Levy
Getty Images

"When we are working with Google, or with Facebook, or any of them, and we put an issue on the table and we explain what we want to achieve, there is a lot of goodwill from both sides to achieve this." The two digital giants have been seen as rivals to agencies because brands can buy media with them directly.

Levy – who will be replaced as CEO by Arthur Sadoun on June 1 - also spoke of the challenges to the traditional agency model during the program, part of which was filmed at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month.

"In the past world, not only were we working in siloes, but industries were well defined. The media was the media, an advertiser was looking for ads, for consumers and selling these products through retailers, and it was not trying to be a retailer itself, and the retailers had their role and the advertising agency theirs.

"Today, everything is mixed. Advertisers are producing, marketing, selling directly, selling through many channels. Media are not exactly only media.

"We, the advertising agency, we are trying to be the neutral, agnostic player, to help our client to get connected with the right consumer, through the right channel, and making sure that their money is well spent, and that creative work is absolutely staggering in order to kill the competition."

Last month, Publicis reported fourth-quarter 2016 revenue of 2.67 billion euros ($28.5 billion), an underlying drop of 2.5 percent on a year earlier.

"Marketing Media Money" will be broadcast on CNBC on Thursday 23 February at 10pm GMT

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