COVID acceleration, data science, technology products – Publicis Groupe ANZ CEO Michael Rebelo on the group shifts in 2020

Publicis Groupe Australia and New Zealand CEO Michael Rebelo has revealed some of the thinking behind the array of changes its agencies have experienced in 2020 during a discussion on the Mumbrellacast, set to be published this afternoon.


Rebelo, who has been in the role since early 2019, has led the group through a significant amount of senior staff changes as well as the merger of Performics and MercerBell and the introduction of Publicis Liberté, a new way of flexible working. In the discussion he revealed that COVID helped accelerate some of the changes, and that ecommerce, data sciences, and technology products were going to be a key focus for the group.

On the staff changes, he said, “Some of the changes were a result of people deciding they wanted to do something different, but the rest of those were literally the evolution of our model and part of our strategy being fine tuned and focusing on the changing needs of our clients. So they have all been strategic decisions.”

Rebelo noted that COVID had actually helped accelerate some strategic changes, particularly in terms of the merger between Performics and MercerBell.

“We have seen increasing demand or opportunity to move,” he said. “I had this philosophy around how we specialise, create momentum and connect within our group and we saw increasing demand for the capabilities in what Performics delivers and what MercerBell delivers to create a new agency model which is essentially a performance media driven creative and customer experience design agency. So COVID helped us get there a lot quicker, but it was one of the ideas we had at the beginning of the year.”

MercerBell recently merged with Performics

Rebelo also revealed a fresh focus on ecommerce, data sciences and technology products that had come about pre-pandemic and he hoped would place the group in a strong position moving into 2021.

“One of our strategies was to look at how we diversify out of our traditional revenue streams – we are technically largely a service based business, that is how we derive our income, so we were looking at how we also create product streams and revenues,” he said. “We have a range of products already within the group and Jason Tonelli’s role was to look at what the big plays were and how we package those up so that all our brands can access the opportunity. That was part of the strategy. We noticed this pre-pandemic. One of his focuses has been ecommerce, data sciences, and technology products. It has been an area we have seen increased demand into.”

Despite the challenges of 2020, Rebelo was optimistic that there was opportunity on the horizon.

“What we have seen this year, whether it was the agency business or our clients business, those that had a level of momentum could withstand this a lot longer,” he said.

Rebelo will feature on the Mumbrellacast, to be published this afternoon

“As we move forward now, that momentum we had coming in has really helped us. It’s been tough, anyone would be lying to you if they said leading, managing, working in 2020 has been a walk in the park. It’s been a tough year.

“I would certainly say from what we are seeing, and this is also coupled with the science of the pandemic, I think we should be optimistic. We are looking at positive signs of growth and I think we can regain some ground as an industry that has been lost. You can see from the SMI figures that have been published that there is spend coming back. Obviously that is sector based as well, there will be some categories and industries that will take a lot longer, but on the whole, the outlook I think is one of positivity. How big? How much? That is yet to be seen.”

To have Damian Francis’ interview with Michael Rebelo hit your podcast feed when it drops, subscribe to the Mumbrellacast on your favourite podcasting app


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