The Economic Times
English EditionEnglish Editionहिन्दी
| E-Paper

    We are far from being where we want to be: Publicis Groupe COO Jean Yves Naouri


    Understanding consumers, trends, what's going on in those markets is pretty important for the future. Digital will be at the forefront of this revolution.

    ET Bureau
    Engineering's loss is advertising's gain. Jean Yves Naouri's first visit to India was as an engineer when he was part of his company's team that visited Calcutta, now Kolkata, to survey the existing transport system and pitch for the city's metro project.

    That was 27 years ago. Over time, the PhD of Ecole Polytechnique and Chief Engineer of Corps des Mines decided he preferred creating marketing communication more than than buiding physical infrastructure. Recently Naouri returned to India on a day trip — this time as chief operating officer, Publicis Groupe, and executive chairman, Publicis Worldwide.

    It wasn't, however, a seamless transition. Between engineering and advertising, Naouri took up the role of a cabinet advisor to France's minister of industry and foreign trade (then a certain Dominique Strauss-Kahn) where he was in charge of a number of industrial sectors including health.

    It's after quitting his government job that Naouri joined Publicis Groupe in 1993 and has since then worked in various positions across the group. Today Naouri is tipped to succeed Maurice Levy as the next head of Publicis Groupe, although, in a chat with Brand Equity, Naouri deflected the question.

    "That's still some time away and right now I am just doing my job," he says. The job during his recent stay in Mumbai involved day long meetings with the agency heads of Leo Burnett, Publicis India, SMG, ZenithOptimedia and Digitas, among others. And juggling interviews with the media.

    That's enough to tire anyone, but Naouri wasn't complaining. "I always enjoy what I am doing otherwise I fly away. I am excited with every moment I spend in my work because I see no other way. If there comes a day when I am less excited, I immediately move to something else," he says.

    When he's taking a break from work Naouri likes to play word games with his family and taking walks in the forest. "I am very family driven. I guess I also draw my energies from them. Of course they consider me a dinosaur, but that's a generation thing," he laughs.

    The year 2011 has been a busy one for Publicis and Naouri says that bustle will continue for some more time. "We've made a couple of commitments in fast growing markets like China, India, Brazil and Russia because we believe this part of the world is essential to our future.

    Understanding consumers, trends, what's going on in those markets is pretty important for the future," he asserts. And like everyone elsein advertising, Naouri also believes digital will be at the forefront of this revolution.

    "I have a strong belief that in two years from now, we will not use the word digital anymore; you won't need to call things digital because no one will know what analog means, no one will remember. I ask my children what they know about analog and they know nothing, because they were born in digital," he explains.

    The belief in digital made the company invest in the space as early as 2000. Naouri attributes the secret of the Groupe's belief to chief Levy: "Our CEO is also an engineer and understands IT pretty well. He has a passion and vision for that, so we have always been strong believers of what digital will bring to our company," he says.

    According to Naouri all fast growing countries including India are well poised to be at the centre of the digital revolution. "Many countries are rolling out their 3G & 4G networks and we see significant progress on that front — new kind of services, strong development of e-commerce, strong access to social media - all this will be a natural flow and will lead to an acceleration of brand new services," predicts Naouri.

    Digital today has led to, what Naouri calls mass adoption and as a result, time take by a consumer to adopt a technology has come down drastically. "You probably took several years to have access to an iPod; bur for an iPhone the lag was some months and in case of the iPad it was a couple of days! It's extremely brutal!"

    To ensure Publicis understands trends well, the group has forged partnerships with online giants like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! to exchange knowledge. "The role of a communications group is to advise clients by understanding social patterns - why do people behave like this? Why are they going to a site? What are they looking for? And it is not a perfect science. Sometimes even we are surprised with the success and I think it is good there is still some mystery left," says Naouri.

    So how satisfied is he with the performance of Publicis' agencies in India? "The trouble is whatever they do I will never say I'm satisfied. I am always demanding more and that has nothing to do with their performance," laughs Naouri before going on to provide an instant status report of the Indian portfolio.

    "Our media business is strong in India, although we have strengthened Publicis lately with some acquisitions (for instance, the purchase of a majority stake in Watermelon, a healthcare advertising agency, in March). I think today we have a far balanced structure within the group compared to the past. We have made significant inroads in PR, digital and healthcare, in addition to creative, and that's a big positive." But Naouri wants more.

    "We are far from being where we want to be; that is not a criticism, but I am setting the bar very high.".
    Download The Economic Times News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.
    The Economic Times