Publicis Groupe returned to positive organic growth in the March quarter, posting a "solid" 2.8% for the three months, ahead of expectations.
The performance was mainly driven by the US and Asia. Organic growth was up 5.7% in Asia and 2% in China.
Australia recorded "dynamic organic growth". Details weren't revealed in the Publicis annoucement.
Net revenue in Q1 was 2,392 million euros, down by 3.6% from 2,481 million euros in 2020.
Publicis is the first of the big advertising holding companies to report first quarter results.
And better results are ahead. In the three months to June, the global advertising group expects to recover between 60% to 80% of what it lost in the same quarter of 2020, implying an organic growth between 8% and 10%,
However, the company is sitll cautious, saying the crisis is not over yet. Publcis hasn't released full year revenue guidance for 2021.
The company says it will will continue to "manage its cost base and its cash tightly" while preserving its agility and investing in future growth.
CEO Arthur Sadoun described the environment as challenging but said the transformation of the company was behind the return to growth.
"We continued to capture a disproportionate amount of the shift in client investment towards digital channels, e-commerce and DTC (direct to consumer advertising)," he says.
"On the new business front, Q1 has been very busy, with some structural wins like L’Oréal Media business in China, Infiniti’s global creative, AB InBev’s data business, Toyota’s entire advertising portfolio in Australia, Unilever Shopper Marketing and Samsung media in the US.
"For the rest of the year, we will continue to focus on our main priorities: putting our people first by safeguarding their health and wellbeing; staying close to our clients, who are under pressure to reinvent their business model; and accelerating on our product roadmap, which is advancing well, as demonstrated by our recent partnership with The Trade Desk.
"Of course, returning to growth earlier than expected raises even further the confidence we have in our model, and I would like to thank our people for their incredible efforts and our clients for their trust. Nonetheless, we remain cautious in what is a still very challenging environment.”
Results by geography:
North America net revenue was up by 4.7% on an organic basis in Q1 2021, and down by 3.2% reported due to the US dollar exchange rate.
This includes a solid performance in the US, up by 5.1% on an organic basis, demonstrating further sequential improvement and positive for the second quarter in a row.
Publicis says this is the result of a faster than expected economic recovery in the country, combined with the strength of the Groupe’s model.
Digital consulting division Publicis Sapient was up by 11.2%, benefitting from the encouraging pipeline that started to pick up in 2020.
Net revenue in Asia Pacific was down by 0.9% on a reported basis, but returned to positive on an organic basis at +5.7%. China, which was the first country impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, posted an organic growth of +3.0% thanks to a better environment and strong series of wins.
India and Australia both recorded "dynamic organic growth" in Q1.
A breadown of net revenue by sector:
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