Richard Hytner, the Publicis chairman, said: "Derek will not sit in judgment of media schedules but the part that media planning plays in the overall communications mix."
The group sees the arrival of Morris as a response to its increasing involvement in total communications campaigns for clients such as Renault, Asda, the Woolwich and MFI and of the demand by more advertisers for "big picture
thinking from agencies.
His hiring is also a recognition by the group that media has become too disconnected from the advertising process and that it should be back at the heart of agency thinking.
The importance Publicis attaches to the appointment is underlined by the fact that Morris will join the agency management team of Hytner, Grant Duncan, the managing director, and Gerry Moira, the executive creative director.
Publicis set the stage for change earlier this year when it consolidated its direct marketing, interactive and publishing interests into the Publicis Dialog group.
Morris's task will be to cast a "neutral eye
across all the group's assets from advertising and brand consultancy to interactive services and publishing in order to deliver the best communications advice to clients.
His decision to join Publicis follows reports of differences of opinion with other Unity partners over the emphasis of the agency. But he insisted: "I hadn't been looking to get out of Unity. But when I found out what Publicis planned to become it was very enticing. I think I have an advantage because media people are used to being neutral."
Hytner added: "We're trying to avoid a situation in which Derek is seen as a media director. That's not what he is and I don't believe it will cause any tensions between ourselves and third-party media agencies."