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Publicis’ Raja Trad on ‘the power of one’

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Publicis Groupe’s restructuring announcement of last year is beginning to have an impact on the region. Iain Akerman caught up with Raja Trad to find out how

“Let me tell you what the benefit of all this is,” says Raja Trad, the newly-named chief executive of Publicis Communications Middle East. “It’s not talking integration, it’s delivering integration.”

We are discussing the restructuring of Publicis Groupe, which late last year broke down its disciplines into four ‘solutions hubs’. The decision seemed far removed from the Middle East at the time, with Maurice Lévy and his most senior executives deciding upon the restructuring in San Francisco during the autumn. Yet the impact of those decisions is now being keenly felt.

Trad for one, formerly chief executive of Leo Burnett Group MENA, now finds himself in charge of all of Publicis Groupe’s brand advertising agencies in the region. That means Leo Burnett, Publicis Middle East and, for the first time, Saatchi & Saatchi. All fall under the Publicis Communications Middle East banner, as do MSL Group, Arc and Optimedia.

He therefore finds himself with more work and more responsibility during a period of regional uncertainty.

“More work, yeah, you bet, I can’t tell you,” says Trad with a shrug of his shoulders. “It’s like the day starts and it doesn’t end.”

The modification of the company’s business model put clients ‘at the heart’ of the organisation said the group at the time of the original announcement last December. Whereas its old structure had been built around the concept of worldwide networks, those silos are being broken down to offer clients Publicis Groupe’s “entire know-how and expertise through the power of one”. The performance of the company’s businesses will be judged on client service, with each client led by a chief client officer who will be responsible for all the group’s services and skills, no matter the discipline or country.

The client-centric structure has echoes of WPP’s client-specific bespoke agencies, which draw on the gamut of WPP companies’ expertise, but Publicis Groupe insists it is doing more than mimicking WPP and is reacting to client demand.

“The objective, as Maurice Lévy said, is that everything starts with our clients’ interests and ends with our clients’ interests,” says Trad. “And clients expect from any group today a model that is at their service – a model that gives them access to all the offerings and all the competencies that are within the group. And we have seen that a lot of the global pitches recently have been driven by the power of the group.

“The whole concept when it was first shared with us was ‘the power of one’. This is what clients have come to expect. A total communication group and a total communication solution.”

Publicis Communications sits alongside Publicis Media, Publicis Sapient and Publicis Healthcare as one of the four new hubs. In terms of Publicis Media, the group is moving from six global agency brands – Starcom, Zenith, Mediavest, Spark, Optimedia and Blue 449 – to four. Those being Starcom, Zenith, Mediavest | Spark and Optimedia | Blue 449.

Meanwhile, the three ad agencies under Trad’s remit will remain in their current office locations, with no plans to bring them all together under one roof, while the senior management team overseeing them will consist of Trad, chief creative officer Bechara Mouzannar, and a chief financial officer. Saatchi & Saatchi will also retain its own chief executive, who will report to Trad.

“We will keep the culture, keep the brand image, keep the personality of each agency, but whenever we can do something that will be common to all three, that is what we will do,” says Trad. “For example, instead of having PR offerings here and there, we will have one PR agency that will be at the service of all of the brand agencies.”

He adds: “When I started talking to Saatchi & Saatchi I discovered that there are a lot of synergies, there are a lot of things that can be done that will be for the good of the group and for the good of the client. It’s only by starting the trip, when you really take a deep dive, when you talk about everything, that you realise it’s like we’re starting something new. We’re analysing, we’re assessing, we are trying to learn from the past, we are benefiting from cross-learning and implementing what we believe is right.”

What will happen to Saatchi & Saatchi?

“I think we have a brilliant team and I think the agency has huge potential to grow and I’m counting on that,” replies Trad. “Because apart from the fact that we have a good team at Saatchi & Saatchi, we’re going to make sure that the agency has a very solid network across the region, like we have at Leo Burnett, and we’re going to apply a lot of the learnings of Leo Burnett. I always say that Leo Burnett is one office that happens to be in different geographies and we manage our resources by need and not by geography, so we can move people from one place to the other in order to support, in order to help, in order to win, in order to pitch, so it’s going to be very fluid.”

How about consolidation? Will people lose their jobs or will new talent be brought on board as a result to the creation of Publicis Communications Middle East?

“There will be consolidation. I won’t say necessarily there will be any new people. We are re-assessing, restructuring, looking at everything and in some cases you might have new hires and in some cases you might decide that I don’t need everyone because one of the objectives is to have a leaner, simpler, more efficient, more productive operation. But the objective is not to cut down on people. We have to do what we believe is right for our clients’ businesses and for our business. The objective is to have an efficient and productive operation. Under this heading you have to do what you need to do.”

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