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Nick Farnhill on what the creation of Publicis.Poke means for staff and clients


By Stephen Lepitak, -

June 7, 2019 | 5 min read

The creation of Publicis.Poke, which sees the merging of Publicis London, Poke and Arc, will offer clients access to a broader range of skill sets, claims Nick Farnhill, the chief executive of the business.

Nick Farnhill

Nick Farnhill on what the creation of Publicis.Poke means for staff and clients

It will see the entities become integrated within their current home at Baker Street in London with Dave Monk made executive creative director and Poke co-founder Nick Roope act as creative chairman. Speaking to The Drum prior to the announcement of the formation of the group, Farnhill explained that the move was “a scaled version of what we are already doing.”

He described how the business was already operating with Heineken and EE in advance of the merger: “The Heineken team are working as a joined-up team, you have Publicis and Poke in artwork working on that account, we’re doing it with EE as a result of learning from that experience, so we have Arc and Poke art working on EE and we’ve got better work out of that. Looking at the retail experiences and the physical experiences that we created with EE, that only came around through the Poke and the art teams being closer together.”

He continued to explain how the businesses were evolving as a result of the integration, claiming that they had already begun to share cultures in a manner that wasn’t witnessed a year prior, despite all sharing the same building.

“What we saw was four distinct cultures/businesses/types of people which we already have coming together and not through diluting but with people who are genuinely excited to be working with each other – then you have an opportunity where people in our team see their careers grow because they have been working in silos – whether it is shopper marketing or digital or above-the-line comms," he said.

"So, Poke people, which has been a joy to see, tap me on the shoulder and say ‘I want to make a TV ad’ - this expands their career and it allows them the opportunity to work on different challenges and stuff they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do at Poke. In terms of that, it makes sense, but the other really important bit for me is that it’s been interesting to manage four different brands with four different personalities, visions of what they are and direction of travel for what they are going in.

"It’s a pretty difficult thing to do, but more-and-more we share the same working and cultural values and the same people values and we’re all heading in the same direction with a single purpose and single vision.”

This is Farnhill’s first major move since taking over as chief executive of Publicis London at the beginning of this year. The integration of the three businesses will also see Trent Patterson become managing director, having previously served as managing director of Publicis London.

Asked what the new agency model meant for current and potential clients, Farnhill explained: “What this does for clients is that it helps us work with those who want to a human-centric approach to their communications with people in front of them who talk broadly as opposed to responding to individual channel requests. What it boils down to is they want sense-making and learning which gives them not only access to the talent they need to get to sensible and credible answers back but it helps them become better leaders and to help them go back to their teams and to shape the type of work that they want to do, how they want to engage with their agencies and asking the type of questions they should be asking their agencies; which is ‘is this the right problem that we are trying to solve?’. So, they are getting access to a broader range of talent in an easier single point of entry and a greater view of the creative opportunity in front of them.”

Publicis Groupe UK chief executive Annette King said in a statement of the move: “This is a significant moment that sees our Publicis Groupe strategy manifest into a new kind of agency which combines specialist talent and skills to better service our clients. Publicis.Poke is a desiloed agency, that brings fluidity to all the places that a brand can exist and one that recognises technology has created a continuous world for consumers.”

The announcement comes the day after Dentsu Aegis announced the merging of some of its UK brands to form Dentsu X and to create five lines through the business across: media, performance, creative, consumer experience and commerce and entertainment and sports marketing, in another industry move to simplify holding company structures.

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