Several P12 members are French, and therein may lie another problem for digital talent at Publicis or for that at Havas, the other gallic agency holding company of size.
"As one of the leading representatives of corporate France, it's always going to be more likely that senior management members will themselves be French," according to Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser. "When you look at the French holding companies you do see an orientation toward elevating French nationals for a host of reasons."
Those reasons include language and cultural differences, as well as possible institutional resistance to U.S. incursions on French business. Recall that the French government scuttled Yahoo's attempted acquisition of Dailymotion, a Paris-based company, earlier this year.
AdExchanger sources close to Razorfish suggest senior management, including Lord, have felt stymied in the four years since Publicis acquired the agency. With the completion of senior exec earn-outs last year, the temptation of jobs in other corners of the digital marketing sector has been enough to pull some away.
Some of this comes down to a difference in approaches, as Wieser points out. But he acknowledges that some of Publicis' rivals have invested more in their digital talent. "WPP seemingly has put more of a focus on senior leadership – quietly building up a very deep bench," he said.
Publicis is not the only holding company struggling to keep talent. There's no shortage of jobs for seasoned CEOs tuned to the digital disruption, and Publicis folks have naturally answered that call. Matt Greitzer, who led Razorfish's early trading desk effort, left in 2010 to found Accordant Media. Adam Heimlich, who led search and performance marketing efforts, departed earlier this year. AOL, where Lord has landed, is in a sense the largest and oldest of ad tech startups.
Meanwhile Publicis retains some key Razorfish talent, such as CTO Ray Velez and new CEO Pete Stein. But by and large, the Publicis digital bench is made up of long-standing executives at Starcom Mediavest Group, most notably CEO Laura Desmond -- not men and women from its key digital agencies.
Perhaps also worth mentioning is Razorfish's alignment with Adobe, as preferred agency partner. Such deals between agencies and enterprise software companies are becoming more common, since they lead to lucrative managed services fees when clients buy into the whole marketing stack, be it Adobe, Salesforce.com, Google, or Oracle. But they're also controversial since they call into question the ability of agencies to remain vendor neutral.
"The reason we never made those deals before was because we always had to be agnostic," says one former Razorfish exec. "That deal reflects that agnosticism moving up to the Publicis layer."