Publicis Groupe to build AI platform Marcel to accelerate business transformation strategy

Publicis Groupe to build AI platform Marcel to accelerate business transformation strategy

Publicis Groupe is to develop an AI platform that it foresees will transform the business internally and allow its 80,000 employees to pitch to work on projects and be recommended for projects based on their skill set.

The platform, which will be known as Marcel in honour of the founder of the business, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, will be developed through Sapient Razorfish and is a core element of the transformation that is being introduced by new chief executive Arthur Sadoun.

"It's time to reinvent the way we work together," stated Sadoun boldly as he outlined what he recognises as being an ambitious but focused project, the biggest internal project undertaken by Sapient Razorfish since it was acquired.

In order to create internal resource and budget to realise the project, Sadoun has decreed that all conference and marketing spend entering awards be reallocated over the next 12 months, with the ambition to showcase the first version of the platform at Viva Technology in Paris next July.

The strategy follows Sadoun's previous announcement that he wanted the Groupe to become 'a platform' as part of its transformation, which he explained would be met through the development and adoption of Marcel to help meet the talent's aspirations and those of the network's global workforce.

"The reason why we are doing this is to make sure our people and new generation will be able to leverage their ideas at scale," he explains, adding that this will truly bring 'the power of one' vision that was introduced in 2015.

Sadoun believes that there is a need for the business to disrupt itself in order to grow for the future and feels that with all the destruction taking place as a result of digital adoption, the advertising sector has yet to change in a similar way to the taxi industry, he uses as an example.

"We will use this technology to bring together the best of our talents to come to life with big ideas," he added.

"This is the first ever professional assistant platform that is powered by artificial intelligence and connects 80,000 employees across 200 disciplines," stated Carla Serrano, chief executive officer for New York as she outlined the ambition in simple terms. "Marcel's ability to draw on AI will help it to identify the opportunities for people and anticipates the needs of clients as it learns and looks for patterns in a client's transformation agenda. We will be able to anticipate before perhaps even a client knows that an issue is arising."

The app will be able to connect people across disciplines within the company and harness the data supply and the data that is being created, however there will be perimeters to what businesses staff will be able to work across to protect agency and client sensitivities.

The description of the platform is 'equal parts' a tool that will act as a personal assistant, be a collaborative and knowledge sharing platform, create a creative community and facilitate a bidding structure to allow people to bid to work on projects.

"This is a project of the size and scope of one of our clients," admits Nigel Vaz, chief executive of Publicis Sapient EMEA and global president of DigitasLBi as he offered his own view on how Marcel will come to be over the coming two or three years. He revealed that some of the functions already exist within Sapient but are not yet available to the rest of the business, while others do not yet exist.

"You have so many levels of problems that we are solving. You are solving for the human interaction experience, you are solving for the data mining and the data integration complexity and you are solving for human and cultural shift...it's big."

The three recognise that Marcel will also disrupt Human Resources conventions and operations across the business.

Sadoun also believes that the technology will form internal communities that will help overcome geographical boundaries and offer clients the best insights from Publicis talent with relevant skills and experience from all over the world.

"If one day Marcel is part of the executive team I am fine with that - it's a means to an end and that end is better work," he concluded without ruling out the possibility that it could even succeed himself one day.

Earlier this month, Sadoun posted a video message outlining his vision for the company from his first day in charge, including the focus on Break, Bond, Build.

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Stephen Lepitak

Stephen Lepitak is editor of The Drum, with responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day running of the content produced for the various platforms run by the publication. Over the years he has interviewed agency network bosses such as Sir Martin Sorrell, Maurice Lévy and Arthur Sadoun, as well as Cindy Gallop, Kim Kardashian, film directors James Cameron, Spike Jonze, Richard Curtis and Lord David Puttnam. With a keen interest in media and breaking news, Lepitak has been with The Drum since 2005 and is based across its UK, US and Asia operations.

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