PM360 Q & A with Nick Colucci, CEO, Publicis Health

As CEO of Publicis Health, Nick Colucci played a major role in the realignment of the group’s original 70-plus disparate agencies into a cohesive solutions hub of top-tier global agencies working seamlessly together. Under Colucci’s leadership, agencies work collaboratively within the Publicis Health solutions hub—as well as across Publicis Groupe agencies—to meet and exceed the needs of its various clients.

PM360 spoke with Nick to discuss the vision behind the structure, processes, and elbow grease required to realize this unified approach to putting Publicis Health clients at the center—and to find out what others can learn from his experience as the healthcare industry seeks to better connect with consumers and impact their lives.


PM360: Can we talk about how Publicis Health restructured itself from many small groups of agencies to where the company is now—and where that vision began?

Nick Colucci: Fourteen years ago, Maurice Lévy, Chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, recognized that the health and wellness business was significantly different from other lines of the Groupe’s communications businesses. Clients and markets were different. The organizations within the organization were different, and very fragmented at the time. We had 70-something different entities, some of which were very small. And Lévy felt our clients would benefit from an organizational focus on the category that also would benefit our own business and our stockholders, too.

When I became CEO of Publicis Health 10 years ago, we moved from a fragmented collection of business units to a more simply aligned, cohesive business structure that manages and tries to find balance between celebrating the unique characteristics of each individual agency brand, while at the same time creating connective tissue between them.

Can you expand on what you mean by connective tissue?

I believe we were way out in front of how healthcare communications was evolving. Early on, we understood where the marketplace was headed for our clients and we moved in tandem with them, offering them a breadth of experience in all of the areas that matter to them, but also a depth of capabilities that address their needs. At different times and depending on how the market reacts, clients also need more than one agency that has the expertise to work together.

From the onset, we built a tightly knit infrastructure at Publicis Health that helps to fuel and facilitate borderless collaboration and innovation. It’s one thing to acquire a bunch of agencies and throw them together into a group, but it’s an entirely different and more complex endeavor to effectively manage a group of unique agency brands and strike that delicate balance between preserving individuality and distinctness, and also coming together at times for the best interest of the client. Weaving together that connective tissue is an art.

What trends did you foresee that you were able to act on to meet client needs—before they were even aware of them?

Technology and globalization are the two most powerful forces driving our businesses today, affecting all of us, not just advertising businesses. I credit Maurice Lévy for seeing it at the corporate level and pushing all of us to see it in our respective businesses. So much of what we’ve done to push our businesses to create a stronger global presence is powered by and connected through technology.

Consumers are connected like never before. So we have to be connected in ways that meet their demands, but also lead them to new and unexpected places. Fifty-five percent of the Groupe’s business is now digitally based, and that is certainly true for our businesses in health and wellness communications, too.

An element that makes us unique: The businesses held under a group we call Publicis Health Solutions. We have Touchpoint Solutions and recently we acquired PDI and Tardis Medical Consultancy. These businesses specialize in outsourcing high-end reps, medical liaisons, and nurses all the way through to sales reps and contract sales reps in general sales, inside sales, and outside sales. We were right there to take advantage of growth in that business through the outsourcing model that helped us grow substantially. We recognized the opportunity a few years back, and we’re really happy to see it continue to grow and flourish.

That’s fantastic. What do you think is the most important takeaway for our readers?

Agency businesses are undergoing massive transformations. At Publicis Health, we are evolving better ways to create a more fluid flow of talent across our vast network of agencies, directed in the right way toward our clients’ businesses. For us, that means tearing down boundaries and barriers that exist not only geographically, but from one business to another.

We’ll continue to see more ways for us to create greater strategic alliances and different ways to make sure that our assets are working together. An interesting example I saw from a different category was when Mercedes-Benz purchased a company that’s similar to Uber in Europe. Think about a move like that. They’re obviously seeing a company like Uber or a platform that allows for car sharing—like Zipcar and so on—as a threat, so they’re trying to understand and incorporate these innovations into their own business. Seemingly disconnected things are now starting to connect. On the communications side, we may not necessarily see agencies merge with wholly unrelated startups, but we may see agencies create alliances with businesses we might not think of readily.

I’d look for unusual and unexpected pairings that will help us better deal with everything mobile and everything on demand. The development of content and distribution through channels gets closer and closer, and seeing connecting points and relationships. Therein lies the future.


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