The founder of Publicis and one of the most influential figures in
European advertising this century, Marcel Bleustein-Blachet, has died in
Paris just a few days before his 90th birthday.
An immensely colourful figure who led an action-packed life, he was the
first adman to bring the techniques of Madison Avenue to Paris, and saw
Publicis grow from a start-up in 1926 to become France’s leading agency
He laid the foundations for the close links between French advertising
and politics - his 80th birthday party was attended by a string of
former prime ministers - and he was still working in his office atop the
Publicis headquarters at the head of the Champs Elysees until shortly
before his death.
Twice he brought Publicis back from the brink of catastrophe, first as a
result of the Nazi occupation of France, the second time in 1971 when
the agency’s offices were destroyed by fire.
His death leaves David Ogilvy as the sole survivor of an era of
legendary agency figureheads that included Bill Bernbach and Ted Bates.
However, it is unlikely that Bleustein-Blachet’s passing will
precipitate changes in the ownership or management of Publicis. About 30
per cent of the company is on the stock market and the rest of the
shares are held by a Bleustein-Blachet family trust.
At the same time, Bleustein-Blachet had spent the past 25 years
devolving power to Maurice Levy, the Publicis group chairman who became
known as the ‘dauphin’.
Levy said this week: ‘Marcel made all the arrangements necessary for
Publicis to grow and go from strength to strength.’
Bleustein-Blachet’s story is almost classic rags-to-riches. Born into a
Jewish family in Montmartre, he set up Publicis in two small rooms and
went on to form Radio-Cite, France’s most popular pre-war commercial
Michael Conroy, the Publicis-FCB group chairman in the UK, said: ‘Almost
to the end of his life Marcel was an inspiration to the business. ’