North America pushes Publicis revenue up in Q4

Positive growth in the region leads it to beat estimates, though CEO Arthur Sadoun cautions that the crisis is not over.
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Publicis Groupe announced its Q4 and full-year 2020 results this morning, with positive trends in North America leading to another quarter of better-than-expected results amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The holding company reported a drop in organic growth of 3.9% for the quarter ending on Dec. 31, with declines of 6.3% for the full year. But the Q4 dip is actually ahead of the company’s own expectations, and the results for all of 2020 are positive ones in a year when Publicis and other holding companies posted double-digit declines as a result of the pandemic.

“Our long-term investment in data and technology, our country model, and our platform Marcel, have enabled us to stay strong by containing our revenue decline and maintaining best-in-class financials,” said Arthur Sadoun, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, in today’s announcement. “This is the result of our ability to capture the shift in our clients’ investment towards digital channels, e-commerce and direct-to-consumer, which intensified throughout the year.”

Publicis’ results were driven by a strong performance in North America, its largest market, which turned positive with 0.2% organic growth, helped by particularly strong performance in the U.S. (Organic growth in the U.S. was 0.5%; the company did not get any more specific about Canadian growth beyond the fact that it was in between -10% and 0%). While growth in traditional creative and media are still negative due to the impact of COVID-19, the losses were offset by strong performance by its Epsilon data and technology division amid ongoing growth in digital media.

It also had strong performance in production, programmatic and affiliate marketing, as well as double-digit growth in health and “encouraging trends” within innovation arm Publicis.Sapient.

Trends were not as encouraging in other regions, however. In Europe, its second-largest market, organic growth was down 9.1%, largely due to ongoing struggles in the U.K., France and Germany. Organic growth in Asia Pacific was down 8.6%, with a 12.1% dip in Middle East and Africa and a 10.8% drop in Latin America.

Despite several optimistic signs, Sadoun cautioned investors that “the crisis did not end with 2020″ and the year ahead could bring even tougher challenges. He also took time to once again deny that Publicis Groupe was in sales talks, rumours that were spurred by conversations held with a private equity investor late last year.