He replaces Derek Morris, who left Publicis in June to become the vice-chairman of its sister group agency ZenithOptimedia.
The appointment renews Edwards' professional relationship with Tim Lindsay, the former Lowe Worldwide president, who became chairman of the Publicis UK group earlier this year.
Lindsay has been tasked with making the group's integrated offering more appealing. Edwards, who will come on board at the beginning of next month, has a brief to help realise that aim by building the group's planning expertise across all its communications disciplines.
A former chairman and chief executive of the Henley Centre, Edwards enjoyed a close working relationship with Lindsay at Lowe, Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Young & Rubicam, where he was the planning director.
The arrival of Edwards, who will join the Publicis UK group board, completes the senior management team being put together by Lindsay. In July, he hired Mark Cramphorn, a founding partner of Banc, to be the group general manager.
Edwards has been working as a consultant since leaving Lowe last year in the wake of a radical streamlining exercise instigated by the chief executive, Matthew Bull.
Lindsay commented: "Filling Derek's role has taken some time, partly because Paul had work to complete and partly because we wanted to take a look at the market. Having done so, it became clear to us that Paul is the best person for the job.
"Not only is he one of the brightest people I've met but he cares passionately about the people he works with."
Edwards said: "Having got the consultancy thing out of my system, I'm ready to knuckle down again. I've a deep respect for Tim and I've been impressed about how serious Publicis is about doing integration properly."
He added: "My job is to get the planning operation closer to the consumer. If you can do that, you will inevitably be doing the right thing."