Editorial: It's time that Publicis told the world what it can do

Grant Duncan's refreshing honesty about the events that led up to his resignation as the Publicis chief executive will have earned him sympathy and respect.

He is a decent man, popular at all levels in the agency and is well liked by the industry at large. His decision to fall on his sword ("The problems happened on my watch") is sad, but is an example of how energy-sapping and unforgiving this business is.

Similar to many big agency groups, Publicis is having to undergo a painful reinvention of itself to produce the seamless communications solutions clients demand today.

Whether or not the loss of Asda, the Post Office and MFI, with combined billings of £82 million, is proof of Publicis having taken its eye off the ball is an open question (Asda's decision to swap Publicis for Fallon remains puzzling).

More certain is that it still has a significant journey ahead, if its much-hyped holistic approach is to become a reality.

Publicis is still something of an enigma. Once bedevilled by a revolving-door management, the group has shown more stability recently. Even if its creative work has not been pulling up tree roots, it is still hardworking, ensuring that it holds a spot in the UK's advertising establishment.

In the meantime, it has amassed an array of specialist operations that span direct marketing, interactive, publishing and design. And last year, it resolved its PR shortcomings by taking a majority stake in Freud Communications. All well and good. But how well is the group communicating its offering to existing clients and business prospects?

Despite having far more historical baggage to shed than Publicis, the Ogilvy UK Group seems to have got progressively better at showing how its combined power can be brought to focus on a client's communication problem.

Publicis has adopted a more measured approach. Nothing wrong with that as long as dynamism - and clients - do not get lost along the way. It is far from a broken agency. It still has a core client list to die for, and is part of a worldwide organisation now delivering record operating margins. Maybe it just needs to shout a bit louder and more persuasively.

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