Publicis withdraws from all awards, invests money in AI platform instead

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 21 June 2017
Arthur Sadoun

New Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun has forbidden all Publicis agencies from participating in award shows in 2018 in an effort to reduce costs and shift spend towards a new artificial intelligence platform, Marcel, that he says will anticipate clients' needs with its predictive behaviours.

The tool, which shares its name with the group's existing creative agency Marcel and the group's founder Marcel Bleustein Blanchet, is designed to draw on the "predictive nature of AI to identify opportunities, anticipate clients’ needs, connect people, and unleash creativity" all using the what the group calls its "data spine" to drive business solutions.

It will connect more than 80,000 employees in 30 different countries to "connect diverse and extreme skillsets seamlessly".

Marcel, which was built by Sapient, is expected to take a year to develop it, including figuring out the financial structure and getting HR involved to plug every employee's profile into the system so that it can learn and match employees skills, capabilities and interests with client projects.

“Marcel is another milestone in our ambition to become a platform at the service of our clients. Make no mistake, it is an operational transformation. We are one of the last industries that has yet to unleash the power of every individual thanks to technology. It’s time to draw a line in the sand for our people," Sadoun says.

Watch Sadoun's explanation:

The announcement follows an earlier video in which Sadoun said he wants Publicis Groupe to function as “a platform” rather than a network as part of its larger “Power of One” strategy.

Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi and Marcel Australia as well as its media shops Zenith, Blue 449, Starcom and Mediavest, will be impacted by the decision to shirk Cannes and other award ceremonies. Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney dominated at Cannes last year with its Land Cruiser Emergency Network for Toyota and both Leo Burnett Sydney and Marcel have already taken out a slate of awards this year.

Mark Tutssel, creative chairman of Publicis Communications, says: “Marcel is a platform for talent and creativity without borders. It unleashes the collective creative firepower of the Groupe, and is a springboard for the infinite potential of ideas."

No wiggle room

There is no wriggle room for agencies that want to submit work, according to an internal memo written by CEO Frank Voris of Publicis Groupe’s financial services unit.

The memo notes that agencies “will not participate in any vendor conferences, industry trade shows and/or award shows effective 1 July.”

“This is mandatory and exceptions will not be approved... Award/trade show ban is effective for the entire Groupe,” the memo states.

Eliminating award entries and trade shows is part of a cost-saving drive to achieve "2.5% cost synergies for 2018” and hopes to achieve those savings, at least in part, by “eliminating all award/trade shows for the next year.”

Publicis isn't the only holding group trying to reduce costs. AdNews understands WPP reduced the number of agency leaders it sent to Cannes Lions this year.

Agency entries declined 4.5% this year at Cannes Lions, but client entries rose 69%, which could be a growing trend now that Publicis agencies aren't able to enter themselves.

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