PARIS—Publicis Group, parent of Manning Selvage & Lee and Publicis Consultants, has created a new unit—Publicis Public Relations and Corporate Communications Group—that brings all of the company’s public relations, public affairs and corporate communications holdings together under the leadership of MS&L’s chairman and chief executive Lou Capozzi.
Capozzi will serve as chairman of the new group, heading an executive committee that will include Mark Hass—who is promoted to chief executive at MS&L—and Eric Giuily, president and CEO of Public Consultants in France. Capozzi will report to John Farrell, president and chief executive of the company’s specialized agencies and marketing services (SAMS) group.
“Public relations activities are a clear growth opportunity and priority for the holistic offering of the Publicis Groupe,” says Farrell. “The formation of this group and Lou’s appointment demonstrates our commitment to strengthening this business and ensuring we invest in and deliver world class communications capabilities for our clients.”
Like the industry’s other French holding company, Havas, Publicis has several PR brands, many of which report into local advertising agency leadership. Reporting to Capozzi were MS&L, Rowland Communications, and corporate advertising agency masius. Reporting to Giuily were Publicis Consultants, European design firm Carre Noir, and public affairs firm Winner/Wagner in the U.S. Other Publicis PR holdings include several PR units that operate as part of the Leo Burnett advertising agency, Nordic PR powerhouse JKL, and Publicis Dialog in the U.S.
“This is an indication that Publicis recognizes public relations as a distinctive competency that should be managed separately from advertising agencies,” says Capozzi. “It recognizes that PR is not just an offshoot of PR, and that it needs to be manage by public relations professionals.”
Capozzi says the new unit will have about 1,300 employees in 25 countries, but it is not yet clear whether the various PR brands will be brought together under a single agency banner. In that way, it resembles the recently-created Publicis Healthcare Communications Group and Publicis Groupe Media, which are not new agencies but internal organizations designed to enhance client service.
“Our first priority is a review of the various brands,” says Capozzi. “We will conduct an audit of all the operations and consult with the leaders of those organizations to figure out what they want to do and how they would like to position their firms.”
To a large extent, the operations of the two largest brands—MS&L and Publicis Consultants—are complementary. MS&L is strongest in the U.S., the U.K., and Germany, while Publicis Consultants is a powerhouse in France and has smaller operations in London, Brussels and Berlin. And while MS&L is strong in consumer and healthcare PR, Publicis Consultants does its best work in the corporate and public affairs arena, where the so-called “French model” allows it to coordinate broad-based image campaigns that include corporate advertising, corporate identity, and collateral design as well as traditional media relations.
Capozzi joined MS&L in 1990 as director of creative and strategic development, became executive vice president in 1995 and assumed his current role in 1997. Under his leadership, the firm tripled in size during a five-year period.
Hass founded Hass Associates in 1994 after spending 15 years as a newspaper reporter and editor. The firm was acquired by MS&L in 2002.