Lapo Elkann

PARISItalia Independent Group said on Monday it has signed a memorandum of understanding with French multinational advertising and public relations company Publicis Groupe SA for the sale of a majority stake in its creative consultancy Independent Ideas Srl to Publicis Communication.

The transaction will bring an Italian dimension to the French advertising giant’s units Publicis 133 and Marcel WW, and broaden the Italian company’s services in the digital and technological spheres, said company founder Lapo Elkann.

“For us it is a great opportunity first and foremost for Independent Ideas to grow and evolve digital, technology and all the marketing tools to offer a much broader variety of services to our existing customers and to the future customers…but it is also a great opportunity for Italia Independent, my other company, to refocus on its core,” Elkann said in an interview.

Under the direction of chief executive officer Giovanni Carlino, Italia Independent, which was listed on the Milan Stock Exchange in 2013, is refocusing on eyewear and lifestyle products, Elkann added.

“This merger with Independent Ideas is natural, we already share customers and affairs…This foothold in Italy allows us, moreover, to support with significantly more care our international customers that require a framework in Italy,” said Charles Georges-Picot, chief executive officer of Publicis 133 and ceo of Marcel Worldwide.

Independent Ideas is a “marketing, communications, branding, digital company,” explained Elkann, who cited collaboration with the Swiss watch brand Hublot, which belongs to luxury goods giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, as an example of its work. Other clients include Maserati, Juventus and Lavazza.

“It’s no longer enough today to give a great or good product — today people expect and want more. And that’s what we do,” he explained, describing, in the case of Hublot, working with R&D, creative, production, design and development teams to forge a broad campaign that spans storytelling, advertising, digital and social media, including the story behind the creation of the object itself.

Since 2014, Hublot and Italia Independent have issued watch collections based on the Big Bang Unico model as well as the Classic Fusion model that featured tartan fabrics from Rubinacci.

“We’re able to work very, very thoroughly because we don’t cover only communications or marketing or digital or branding or social media, we also have an expertise and skills in design and in creativity at a far broader level than many other agencies,” Elkann said. “Today you need to be able to write a book when you do a product. And a book is made of many things. You have a physical book but you also have a digital book. You have stories but you have stories which people can touch, feel, live and be part of.”

The Italian entrepreneur and Fiat heir last month inaugurated the sprawling headquarters of another project, Garage Italia, an automotive customization service in a former Agip gas station, complete with a restaurant run by a Michelin-starred chef.

While he sold a previous home in Paris, Elkann said he expects to be spending more time in France and is considering a new home in the French capital.

“I’m looking and thinking about getting a new place…I like Paris, Paris is part of my childhood, it’s a city very dear to me and I have French blood from my father who’s half French.”

The memorandum of understanding requires the parties to enter into definitive agreements within the first months of 2018; financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.