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Levy vows to grow Publicis’ digital share amid revenue drop

Holding company Publicis Groupe reported $6.1 billion in revenue for 2009, representing a 6.5% drop from the year before. For the fourth quarter last year, Publicis saw revenue of $1.7 billion, an organic drop of 5.4% year-over-year.

However, Maurice Levy, CEO of Publicis, said on a conference call that his company is not backing down from its digital growth goals. Last year, 22.4% of Publicis’ revenues were from digital. The company’s stated goal is to increase this percentage to one-quarter of total revenues this year.

“We believe that we will be there,” said Levy. “And we have already set a new target, which is to reach – in the coming years – 30%.”  

Lévy attributed the overall revenue drop to sluggishness in the advertising industry. He said that in 2009, Publicis did win new accounts that totaled $6 billion in business, including Carrefour, one of the world’s largest retailers.

“We have unfortunately this environment of negative growth, limited to 5.4%, which is a very good performance compared to the market,” he said in a video addressed to investors. “For the full year, we have 6.5% negative growth, which compares with the market, which has lost between 12% and 14%. So we weathered the crisis quite well and we have been able to gain market share.”

Last year saw Publicis focus on growing its digital business, demonstrated by its acquisition of Razorfish from Microsoft. At the time, Publicis already owned Digitas, the largest interactive agency in the world. The holding company also acquired Unilever CRM program Pour Tout Vous Dire, as well as search agency Performics, which it bought from Google.

Levy added that the acquisitions will likely continue this year, but on a smaller scale.

“We anticipate continuing to invest in these markets, and we believe that we will have to make some acquisitions in some international markets,” he said on the investors’ presentation video. “We don’t anticipate making any acquisition of any magnitude in the US or in France or two or three other markets where we are very, very strong. But we believe that we will need some acquisitions, particularly in emerging markets.”

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