Much to the chagrin of Publicis Groupe CEO and chairman Arthur Sadoun, a lot of the conversation at this year’s Cannes Lions festival concerns Marcel, the AI-powered platform/robot/running joke Sadoun cast as the solution to his holding company’s operational challenges.
While some are hailing his decision to sit out all awards and trade shows for a year as a refreshing change, most industry leaders and Publicis employees remain somewhat skeptical of Sadoun’s plans and intentions.
According to an internal memo sent to both Publicis employees and trade publications late today, Sadoun plans to help clear the air with … an open Twitter Q&A next week.
“I wanted to come back to all of you and hopefully bring a bit of clarity from all of the noise,” Sadoun wrote in the memo in which he also congratulated his teams for winning Lions.
He continued, “One of the biggest pieces of news from this week was our announcement of Marcel, the world’s first professional assistant powered by AI and machine learning. I know from many of you that there are a lot of questions, so I didn’t want the week to end without answering some of the big ones.”
After reassuring staff that “at Publicis Groupe we stand for great work,” he wrote that Marcel will eventually help the network’s agencies around the world develop such work by facilitating more active collaboration, adding, “Creativity is our raison d’être, and Marcel will allow us to climb higher.”
He then clarified that the entire Publicis Groupe will indeed be “taking a pause from awards shows, festivals and industry events for 365 days” before assuring that “when that time is done, we will be back stronger than ever before.”
Regarding the network’s clients, some of whom were alerted to the announcement before his agencies’ employees were, Sadoun said their responses have been “overwhelmingly positive.” Twitter’s Jack Dorsey even called the decision to exit Cannes “ambitious and disruptive.” Sadoun quotes Dorsey saying, “Without a doubt, Publicis Groupe’s Marcel platform will be a game-changer for the industry.”
This may be what inspired Sadoun to hold the Q&A session on Monday. In concluding the memo, he wrote that he plans to answer all questions, including “the good, the bad and the ugly,” in a show of transparency, suggesting that employees “be as candid as possible; use a pseudonym, use a friend’s account, or get in touch personally.”
The note ends, “Voilà, I can’t wait to continue the conversation with all of you.”
Sadoun might be on to something. Marcel has already inspired the inevitable parody account, which may well pose a question or two of Sadoun on Monday.
Someone also created a LinkedIn profile for Marcel, writing, “I might not be as bold as a lion or as sharp as a gold pencil, but I’m breaking silos and I’m here to help solve all you and your clients needs. Ask me anything and I’ll suggest ideas in an interesting voice. And no, I’m not Siri’s brother.”
It’s not quite clear at this time what form the Q&A will take or what time it will happen. Sadoun, like his rival Martin Sorrell, has never been an active Twitter user.
Perhaps he will simply take over the official Publicis account. It’s already quite familiar with Marcel.