Publicis Groupe, Future-focused since 1926

1906, 1926, 1946, 1966, 1996, 2006, 2016...
“6” is the magic number that punctuates the incredible story, the rich and historic rise of a French company that became the world’s 3rd largest communications group.

Publicis celebrates
90 years of creativity & innovation

“Why the name Publicis? ‘Publi’ for publicité, the French word for advertising, ‘cis’ for the French sound of the number six, like 1906, the year I was born.”

- Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet -

1906
Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet,
A man with Street Smarts

21 August 1906, Marcel Bleustein was born – a Leo by birth and by nature.
The youngest of nine children and the son of a furniture salesman, nothing predicted his eventual phenomenal success in advertising. Not particularly studious, with average results, Bleustein knew how to “read, write and count.” His favorite past time was running around the streets of Montmartre - “the streets” as he called them, “of common sense.” It was an excellent apprenticeship, one that set him in good stead for the future, and made him a connoisseur of the common man.
In 1926, a young and fiercely independent Bleustein launched Publicis. He was 20 years old.
Yet, Advertising then was not what we know today, and the profession suffered a dubious reputation.

“Advertising is a rotten business but one day I will wipe out the shame.”
Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet

In 1927, Marcel Bleustein, undeterred by the somewhat odious reputation of Advertising, made a decision… he was going to turn Advertising into a real profession through Publicis. He would transform it into an ethical industry that had standing, and was properly equipped to gauge public awareness and capture the spirit of the time. Naturally curious, and with a keen, watchful eye, Bleustein dedicated his life to Publicis and what he would call his “mad passion” - until he took his last breath on April 11th 1996.
It was a tumultuous ride that saw Publicis rise from the ashes twice… Dealt a few cruel blows of fate, Bleustein single handedly brought the company back to life, driven by his unfailing passion and love of life.

In 2008, Marcel Bleustein Blanchet received posthumous recognition from his global peers. He was the first non-American to enter the “American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame,” which recognizes the outstanding achievements of leaders in Advertising.

A creative genius and visionary, Marcel Bleustein, was a true pioneer and innovator. Thanks to him, the world was introduced to many firsts: shock slogans, the use of radio and TV to advertise, sponsorships, studies, multimedia approaches, rules and regulations, marketing techniques… things that are as valid today as they were then. Even in our digital era they stand strong. Only the vocabulary has changed. Never has the word “founder” been so apt and rich in meaning.
The story of this exceptional man demonstrates how he set the ground rules not only for Publicis but also for the world of advertising and modern day communications.

“If you wait for things to change, they change without you. At a certain point you must let go of your rationality and jump- and jump correctly, of course. I did, whether by luck or instinct.”

- Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet -

1926
1935
Radio sends shock waves in France

As early as 1926, having created Publicis, Marcel Bleustein, a free and independent spirit, knew he wanted to establish Advertising as a real profession, and a true economic heavyweight. The 20s proved to be an interesting era for him.
By 1927, he had a solid roster of clients, comprising mainly of friends – they included Comptoir Cardinet, Meubles Lévitan, and Brunswick Furs - and together they marked the beginning of Publicis’ long and prosperous rise. Also in 1927, the first press Advertising appeared.
In 1929, the arrival of TSF sent shock waves throughout France, revolutionizing society. Ever on the ball, Marcel Bleustein had the foresight to recognize the incredible impact radio would have on reaching the consumer. He made the rounds of private and public stations across France, flying his own private plane.

1926, a 20-year-old Marcel Bleustein creates an Advertising agency, with50 000 Francs - the equivalent of €7622 / $8500 today.
He calls the agency Publicis, taken from the French word for Advertising – Publicité and the number 6 from 1926 – the year he founded the company. Bleustein set up shop at 17 rue du Faubourg Montmartre, in Paris.
And just like that, the world’s third largest communications’ group was launched.

In 1930, thanks to his tenacity, Marcel Bleustein, pioneered the first-ever radio advertisement. Consumers were hooked and Publicis quickly achieved national recognition and a reputation for creating incredibly catchy slogans. In 1932, Bleustein moved his offices to 1, Boulevard Haussmann.
1934 sees Publicis suffer its first blow: the abolition of advertising on state radio – which accounted for 50% of the agency’s business. Quick to respond, Marcel Bleustein launched his own station, Radio Cité, heralding the beginning of modern radio: music and information on loop, peppered with advertising. 1935 was the year Publicis stared to acquire cinemas, used to broadcast information from Radio Cité. It was also the year that Publicis joined forces with Havas, its main competitor, to found “Cinema and Advertising,” the first French media sales house. Meanwhile, true to form and in keeping with his “respect for the consumer and freedom of choice,” Marcel Bleustein worked on laying down rules for the Advertising industry. He helps create the French Federation of Advertising the very same year.

“You can’t have good advertising for a bad product.”
Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet

“Advertising has become a crossroads where all modern techniques and even sciences meet: sociology, psychology, economics, communication, marketing, design. It has become so rich, so complete, so rigorous and so precise that you might say it is a digest of our culture.”

- Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet -

1936
1945
Unswerving loyalty to France

In 1936, everything accelerates. Radio, cinema, press … Marcel Bleustein creates the 1st multimedia offer. In response to new demands, he tailors media plans to various targets and just like that, Marketing is born.
In 1937, he creates Régie Presse, an Advertising sales house and increases his visits to the USA, convinced that rational methods can be applied to the creative process. In 1938, he meets Georges Gallup, the pioneer of opinion polls in the USA.
In 1939, war is declared and so begins the dark years for both France and Publicis.

“Marcel Bleustein Blanchet was first and foremost a man of ideas. He never stopped taking risks […].”
Maurice Lévy - 2012

In 1940, Radio Cité was taken over by the Nazis and Publicis, identified as a Jewish business, was forced to close. Marcel Bleustein became an active member of the Resistance under the name “Blanchet.”
In 1943, he joined General de Gaulle in London.
By 1945, due to the war, he had lost everything: his personal belongings and professional assets. Everything that is, except his honor, the loyalty of his teams and clients. His qualities were also firmly in tact: courage, unfailing intuition, his persuasiveness, his keen sense of modernity and humanity.

“To produce without information, is like doing half the job.”

- Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet -

1946
1955
Happiness rebuilt

January 1, 1946, Marcel Bleustein Blanchet is ready for Publicis’ rebirth. Surrounded by his old employees, he sets up the new Publicis at 65 Champs-Elysées. The first activity that got off the ground was Régie-Presse due to the enormous number of newspapers that sprouted up. It was the golden age of the press before the rise of television. True to his friends, Marcel Bleustein, intervened to save France Soir, a huge deal in the press industry of the 1950s.
While the Advertising industry was slow to get up and running, the loyalty of Bleustein’s prewar clients helped him revive his business.

“He never said to me that it was terribly hard or difficult. It must have been very difficult but he didn’t live like that, or at least he never expressed this to me.
It was exciting for him to start over again.
He saved his skin, which wasn’t the case for all of his family. He was, I think, extremely excited and the pleasure of rebuilding something outweighed all the negatives.” (E. Badinter)

In 1947, Publicis grows quickly, thanks to a resurgence of prosperity and partnerships struck with iconic brands: Colgate-Palmolive, Weil, Sopad-Nestlé and Shell etc. In 1948, Marcel Bleustein contacts E. Dichter, an American specialist in motivational studies. He’s convinced that scientific and empirical analysis of behaviors, and of the future, will be extremely useful “decision making tools.” Publicis becomes the first French agency to strike a deal with IFOP (Institut français d’opinion publique) and to acquire a department dedicated to Studies and Research. At the beginning of the 50s, Publicis successfully secures Pinay, a government loan project… therefore creating the 1st financial communication. In 1951, Publicis continues its rise up the Champs-Elysées, moving into number 75. The Advertising industry explodes as the consumer becomes king. Publicis wins many major campaigns in quick succession. It grows from 26 employees in 1946 to over a hundred by 1950, to 207 by 1955.
In 1954, the founder of Publicis officially adds his Resistance pseudonym, Blanchet, to his name becoming Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet.

That’s the paradox of advertising: you are dealing with everyone and yet with someone in particular. Advertising is about achieving collective intimacy.

- Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet -

1956
1965
From Products to Image, from Advertising to communications

In 1956 Publicis surfs a wave of prosperity, its cult campaigns are bang on target. The green giant and the Marlboro cowboy drive the American Advertising landscape.
End of 1957, Publicis creates “Publicis Corp.” in New York. While consumerism reigns, the prejudices against its producers are many. Publicis decides to open the public’s eyes to the reality of companies. In 1958, as a precursor to corporate communication, it creates the “industrial information” department. Even in the early days, Publicis was constantly redefining the industry.

“I am driven by a kind of dynamism that always pushes me to react. I always face things. ('le Monsieur de la Pub' video)”

In 1958, Marcel Bleustein Blanchet’s dream comes true as Publicis moves to 133 Champs Elysées and the Drugstore opens. Publicis continues to innovate as mass consumerism takes hold. It is communications that start to mark the difference as the agency starts to create increasingly tailored strategies. Start of 1960, Publicis adds a new dimension to the profession - Communication and Image – nourishing its strategic thinking with psycho/sociology, statistics and semiotics.

In 1961, Publicis has considerably diversified its offer.
Concepts, strategies, communication techniques, Publicis lays the foundations for modern communications. Advertising is on top. New major clients, such as L’Oreal and Renault, entrust their image to the agency. They will still be with Publicis 50 years later.
But it isn’t just the large brands that count… Publicis continues to support its smaller clients with the same passion and commitment and will help catapult these little known brands into the public arena. It contributed significantly to the global success of DIM, for example, and helped Boursin in 1964 with its first-ever campaign.

“In reality, it isn’t creativity that evolves: it stays the same […].
In the times of Homer and Sophocles, it had already fully developed […]. It is everything else that grows around it: Everything that occurs before and after creative Advertising”
Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet - 1970

“There is really no good advertising for bad products. Advertising is like proposing – and to succeed in love you must believe in it. To project yourself into the future you must permanently renew your lifeline.”

- Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet -

1966
1975
A Builder at heart

By 1966, with its new HQ, its new logo, its historic clients and pioneering spirit, Publics has laid the foundations of a successful company. In 1967, it opens its 1st office in Brussels. 1968, the year of the social and cultural revolution, is full of paradox: consumerism is largely disparaged yet it is the year that French television agrees to advertising. Following years of battle, Publicis has won: the Boursin campaign will be the 1st advertising film broadcast on TV with its cult signature, “Du pain, du vin, du Boursin” (Bread, wine, Boursin).

In 1966, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet asks Van Cleef & Arpels to create a gift for its employees. It creates a lion’s head surround by 14 sunrays. In this symbolic year of the two “6s” Van Cleef & Arpels creates the Publicis logo, without even realizing.

End of 1968, BSN launches a hostile takeover bid for Saint-Gobain. Publicis is called upon for help by “the prey.” They sign the 1st crisis communications deal and set the scene for other future stock market battles that will play out in the media.
In 1969, Publicis has 700 employees and in June 1970 it enters the Paris Stock Exchange. In 1971, Publicis hires a young IT professional, Maurice Lévy, who is quickly noticed.
September 27 1972, a fire destroys Publicis. Its founder, 66 years old (again the famous “6”!), is powerless to help.

“Publicis will continue. You will all be paid at the end of the month”
Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet

In 1972, a few weeks after the ordeal, Publicis – in a symbolic act - buys Intermarco in the Netherlands; one year after Farner, a Swiss company took it over. This merger creates its 1st European network, which covers 14 countries. That same year, Publicis dips its toe into the technology world and by creates SGIP, it also enters into the design universe with the creation of Carré Noir.
Determined and supported by his loyal workforce, Bleustein rebuilds Publicis as a leader. In December 1974, Publicis unveils its new HQ, a true symbol of modernity. In 1975 Maurice Lévy is named CEO of Publicis France.

In the brave but cold new world of technology, advertising can be a kind of a human bulwark. In the dreamworld of technology, it can be a contact point with reality. I believe that in the future advertising will play that role more than ever. It will bring us back to real things when we lose touch with them in our increasingly abstract world. It will constantly reaffirm our relationships with others, because what we consume links us with our communities.

- Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet -

1976
1985
An exceptional duo

1976 marks the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration between Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet and Maurice Lévy, his future successor. One created Publicis, the other will accelerate worldwide growth.
In 1977 the sector experiences some upheaval caused by diversification and internationalization. Carefully anticipating the challenges, Publicis launches an acquisitions strategy.
In 1978, it acquires UK agency Mc Cormick. In 1980 the French network has considerably expanded and covers 12 cities.
Driven by the evolving demands of clients who want an extended offer, Publicis strengthens is portfolio to offer direct marketing, PR, recruitment advertising, corporate communications, financial, health, new technologies consultancy, media activity, production etc. … In 1983, Publicis introduces the concept of global communication. In 1984, 23 offices in Europe and the US, adopt the Publicis brand.

In 1984, its new dimension, its geographic reach, its creative sense, is worthy of its European Parliament campaign win “Europe: a democracy reunites us.”

“The priceless ingredient of advertising, and of all successes: the rage to win, the rage to persuade.”

- Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet -

1986
1995
Independent Globalization

By 1986, the growth strategy really pays off as Publicis is named one of the TOP 20 communications’ groups in the world. In 1987, M. Bleustein-Blanchet transform the agency’s structure, one that is fit for 2 men, who will soon become inseparable: M. Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet becomes chairman of the supervisory board, while Maurice Lévy is made chairman of the management board. In May 1988, Publicis announces its alliance with FCB in the USA. From 1990, under M. Lévy’s leadership international expansion explodes.

November 6 1986, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet organizes a dinner for “1000 friends” bringing together loyal clients, artists, political and media personalities.
Ever the visionary he gives a speech about his project to help youth employment: “The ideas that we think are impossible to make happen, are often ahead of their time […]. Only one thing interests me: the future.”

In 1993, Publicis takes control of the FCA agency and forms its 2nd European network. The economic crisis is brewing and the Evin and Sapin laws conspire to create further difficulties for the Advertising sector. Lay offs are rife except at Publicis. Maurice Lévy launches his “economic revolution”: to save jobs via collective salary reduction. The agency weathers the storm and comes out of it stronger than ever.
In 1994, Publicis embraces the Internet and the online recruitment of talent begins. The Internet will plunge the world into the 3rd Millennium. In 1995 FCB attempts to take control of Publicis, which swiftly breaks up the alliance. For Maurice Lévy, keen to support clients, it is vital that Publicis create its own worldwide network – one that it is independent and boasts a comprehensive offer. Development is accelerated. End of ’95, Publicis is present in 76 countries and 130 cities, and is ranked 7th in the world. The decade enjoys many standout campaigns: Whirlpool, Perrier, Clio, Levi’s, SFR … and Coca Cola.

“A pioneer for over 60 years, Publicis is here to stay [..] The success of a company can be put down to the combination of two subtle factors: the will to stay faithful to its roots and the ability to permanently project itself into the future.”
Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet - 1986

“The trick to realizing your dreams is to remain a child your whole life long.”.

- Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet -

1996
2005
Viva La Différence

April 11 1996, Publicis loses its founder. The successor is ready. His daughter, Elisabeth Badinter, will take the helm of the Advisory Board.
Publicis continues to grow globally and begins business in Brazil. Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Philippines quickly follow. In 1997, true to its roots, Publicis acquires TV6, the 1st privately owned French TV chain. In 1998, enriches its portfolio with new expertise. It has already defined its innovative development the holistic difference.

Until his very last breathe M. Bleustein-Blanchet lived for Publicis: “What’s happening with the Pope’s campaign?* If you win the budget, it will be my real Légion d'honneur,” he tells Maurice Lévy, on April 10, the eve of his death. The traditional 7 days of mourning are respected before Publicis is informed of its victory. “At that exact moment, I felt intense emotion. We had managed to obtain 'his' Légion d'honneur !,” explains Maurice Lévy
Extract from the Figaro, 23/06/2006
*World Youth Day campaign

In 2000, the “Holistic Difference” is born! Publicis then begins a series of major acquisitions. In June 2000 it launches a successful takeover bid of Saatchi & Saatchi, the globally recognized creative group. Publicis has enriched its reach with its 2nd global creative network, reinforcing its presence both in Europe and the USA. With new prestigious clients to boot.
In September 2000, Publicis Groupe is introduced to Wall Street. In 2001 ZenithOptimedia, the consulting and media-buying network, goes global. On September 11 2001 the World Trade Center collapses. In 2002, Publicis launches a surprise but friendly takeover of Bcom3 (Leo Burnett, MSL, SMG…) and signs a partnership with Dentsu. The Groupe is now present in more than 100 countries and on 5 continents, and is ranked the 4th largest communications company in the world. In 2003, Zenith Optimedia becomes its first global media network. In 2004, PHCG, its first global health network is created.
End of 2005, Publicis gets its first official rating from S&P and Moody’s. It marks a new era for the Publicis Groupe.

“We must realize that digital affects society: Just look around you and take a look at yourself to see how it has affected consumer behavior”

- Maurice Lévy -

2006
2016
No silo, No solo

In 2006, Publicis, always one step ahead, understands the importance of the Internet. End of 2006, it takes over Digitas (USA), the leader in digital communications, putting it at the head of the market with unrivalled digital expertise. In 2007, the successful integration of Digitas into the Groupe, marks the first piece of a new puzzle that will be put together over the next decade. The “Human Digital Agency” project helps kick off the Groupe’s digital transformation. Publicis Groupe is delisted from the NYSE.

“The friendly agreement with Digitas Inc. enables us to immediately achieve our objective of being even closer to the future.”
Maurice Levy - 2006

In January 2008, Publicis and Google announce their collaboration. In October, Publicis acquires Razorfish, the second largest global digital agency, from Microsoft and together the two heavyweights reach a global agreement in the média domain. In 2009, VivaKi is created. End of 2009, Publicis becomes the 3rd largest communications group in the world.
In 2011 it acquires Rosetta, a large US digital agency. In May 2011, it organizes the world’s first digital summit, the é-G8, firmly establishing its position as an e-digital leader.

In September 2012, Publicis takes over LBi, a European network that is then merged with Digitas, giving birth to the 1st global digital network. Mid 2012, Publicis and AOL create online advertising in real time. July 2013, Publicis and Omnicom announce plans to merge. May 2014, the project is shelved due to lack of agreement over governance issues. In September 2014 Publicis bounces back with the take over of Sapient, a gem that had been coveted for months. In February 2015, the first global digital platform, Publicis.Sapient, is created.

“Ultimately, what counts more for a man worthy of this name? Success or failure? I believe it’s the failures, or rather how you overcome them.”
Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet

In October 2015, a seminar brings together the 300 most senior managers of the Groupe for the “Power of One” project, its catalyst for transformation.
December 3, Publicis Groupe announces its new organization.

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