PARIS—Following the departure last month of Mark Hass, chief executive of MS&L, and the resignation this week of Publicis Consultants chairman Eric Giuly, French holding company Publicis Groupe has appointed Olivier Fleurot as chief executive of the company’s public relations, corporate communications, and events management units. He will take over many of the responsibilities currently handled by John Farrell, who runs the company’s SAMS (Specialized Agencies and Marketing Services) division and is leaving the company in June.
Fleurot, who previously was chief executive of the Financial Times Group, joined Publicis as executive chairman in 2006, at which time there was speculation that he had been selected as the heir-apparent to Maurice Levy, the head of the global agency. Fleurot was previously chief executive of publisher Les Echos, chief executive of FT, and senior advisor to the CEO of FT parent Pearson.
According to Levy, in an internal memo to the group’s PR staff, “We have very significant and high-quality assets in the fields of public relations, corporate communications, and events. These include MS&L, Kekst & Co, Freud, Publicis Consultants, Publicis Events, Publicis Live, Emotion, PBJS, SAS, among others. By placing these important assets under Olivier’s responsibility, I’m expecting a simplified organization: one that is swifter, more cohesive, and generating more vibrant growth.
“Olivier brings to the table his experience as executive chairman of Publicis Worldwide, and an immense understanding of corporations and the business press…. He seems the best choice to lead this vast group of entities and to prepare it for new growth phases and successful brilliant operations…. Olivier will directly manage the operations of MS&L Worldwide, Publicis Consultants | Worldwide, and Publicis Events Worldwide, while overseeing the other assets.”
Sources within the PR agencies say that the simplified organization Levy and Fleurot are aiming for will likely mean a closer working relationship between Publicis Consultants, which has struggled to duplicate its success in France beyond its domestic market, and MS&L, which has been establishing a respected global brand, as well as specialist firms such as Kekst and Freud.
There were some questions from outsiders about the appointment of Fleurot—who has no background in public relations—to lead the PR operations, particularly at a time when PR is in the ascendant and advertising is seen by many as being in decline. But Farrell was quick to point out Fleurot’s background in the newspaper industry and his broad media knowledge.
And Jim Tsokanos, president of MS&L’s North American operations, says the appointment is good news for the firm. “Our business is in the midst of transformation, and this sort of move is what our industry needs and what we need. This will allow us to take advantage of all of our best-in-class agencies around the world and create a new framework for the agency, new opportunities for our people and a new value proposition for our clients.”