Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun piqued the interest of the industry when he announced last year that the global ad holding company would be creating an AI platform, called Marcel, which would revolutionise the business.
The interest and criticism poured in, partly because he made the announcement in the midst of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, saying Publicis agencies would skip the awards festival in 2018 in order to focus on building Marcel, but also because it was less than six months after he took over the holding group.
Now, nearly a year later, Sadoun has taken to the stage at the Publicis-founded VivaTech conference in Paris to unveil the long-awaited details about Marcel.
The company is describing Marcel as “Publicis in the palm of your hand” and Sadoun said the idea is to get agencies to work more closely together, where previously they have been siloed. It said Marcel will accelerate the transformation of the entire Publicis Groupe, from a holding company, to an 80,000-person 'enterprise platform'.
“Since then [June last year], our industry has gone through unprecedented challenges, demonstrating that incremental change is not a solution. The need for reinvention is stronger than ever,” Sadoun said.
“At Publicis Groupe, we haven’t waited to act. We have broken the divide between data, creativity and technology. We have broken our silos through the Power of One. Today, we are breaking the barriers between talent and opportunity with Marcel.”
Built with the help of Microsoft AI and the company’s own Publicis Sapient part of the business, the new platform aims to connect all 80,000 Publicis employees across 200 disciplines in 130 countries. Sadoun said this will provide more "seamless communication".
It’s currently being beta-tested by 100 employees, moving to 1000 employees in the next few weeks.
The company will start the overall rollout in January 2019 and has set a goal to have 80% of the company’s people connected by 2020.
Sadoun and Publicis global CCO Nick Law insisted that the company’s “raison d’être” in developing Marcel was to help identify employees with expertise in particular areas, or who might be best suited to help with a pitch.
Publicis debuted a short film created by BBH Singapore to give the public a first glimpse at the vision behind Marcel.
"Tying the development of Marcel to our one-year industry event hiatus was a controversial decision, but a necessary one," Sadoun explained.
"It drew a line in the sand and left no doubt that we are determined to do whatever it takes to reinvent an industry that has struggled to evolve over the past 40 years. So I’m grateful to our people, our clients, and our partners at industry festivals around the world for their support and solidarity during this period, which will end in July 2018."
Sadoun said the shift gives creative minds in the business the freedom to progress and thrive and Marcel is proof of its commitment to its people, its clients and the industry - adding "we will be a force for good, by leading the change".
Sadoun also showed a demo of Marcel, which included one specific example of work facilitated by the technology in a case study for Walmart.
Despite shunning the festival, Sadoun described the Cannes Lions organisation as “our learning and inspiration partner,” announcing a digital project called The Work that will showcase campaigns produced from 2001 to 2018.
Publicis made headlines last year for its bold plan to skip Cannes this year, but since then, the network has confirmed execs will serve on juries and its clients have entered work for multiple agencies.
The new Marcel venture is completely separate to Publicis' creative agency Marcel. The Sydney Marcel office officially opened its doors in March 2016 and was born out of a number of circumstances coming together in December 2015. At the crux was the fall of Droga5 and Publicis Mojo. We met the team here.
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