Arthur Sadoun, chief executive of Publicis Groupe has responded to the comments made by S4 Capital executive chairman Martin Sorrell regarding the French agency group’s recent 'cost of living' bonus for its employees, reports Campaign Asia-Pacific.
It is to be noted that following its Q3 results in October this year, Publicis announced that it was giving nearly $50 million as an 'exceptional bonus' to 45,000 staff to cope with rising inflation and cost of living expenses.
The bonus was given only to Publicis employees who are not entitled to variable remuneration, as per the report. It states that the amount was worth one week's salary and was paid in November, right before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
In an interview with Campaign, Sorrell states that the French holding company was merely gifting an extra week’s salary to make up for lost incentives that it failed to pay out during the pandemic.
His comment led Publicis chairman and CEO to respond in quite an 'uncharacteristic' way. Sadoun told Campaign Asia-Pacific in a statement, "It’s quite amusing that Sir Martin is using childish make-believe stories about others to distract from the epic fall of S4 value in the last 18 months."
"S4 may have failed to pay out incentives during the pandemic, but that’s not the case at Publicis, as he wrongly stated in your article. In 2020, not only did we fully reimburse at the end of year the salary sacrifices made by our teams voluntarily when Covid hit. We also paid out a record high level of bonus for all of our teams, who have been fighting so hard during the crisis," he further adds.
Sadoun's went with more barbs aimed at S4 Capital: "At Publicis, we have always stood for putting our people first. Sorrell should give it a try. I just hope he’s not recompensing them with stock options."
Sorrell is known for not pulling punches and has routinely and publicly criticised rivals, particularly his previous company, WPP that is the world's largest ad holding company. His unceremonious ouster from WPP in 2018 was one of the most controversial and talked-about happenings in advertising history.
Interestingly, as Campaign APAC notes, S4 Capital had a meteoric rise after Sorrell launched it on the stock market in 2018 but the share price peaked above 800p in September 2021 and since then it has lost approximately 75 percent of its value. In the same period Publicis' share price has gained roughly 13 percent.
While Publicis Groupe cut pay for 6,000 managers in 2020 during the worst of the pandemic and ended that year with more than 4,000 departures than new arrivals according to its annual financial report, it announced at the year-end in February 2021 that it would be repaying the salary sacrifice and setting aside a higher bonus pool.