Following Arthur Sadoun's Diagnosis, Publicis Launches Working With Cancer Pledge With Dozens of Global Partners

The holding group CEO opens up about his experience with HPV-caused cancer

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It started with a moment of boredom.

While waiting for a lunch to begin, Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun put his hand on his chin and neck. There, he felt a bump. In a car ride afterward, he pointed it out to Carla Serrano, global CSO, and Michelle McGowan, evp, corporate communications in the U.S., who both urged him to see a doctor.

Within days, Sadoun had his diagnosis—stage one cancer. HPV, a virus that commonly causes cervical cancer in women, can also cause cancer in men, as more than a third of HPV-related cancers in the U.S. happen in a man’s throat, where Sadoun’s was located. Following surgery to remove it and a public announcement of his cancer in April 2022, Sadoun faced seven weeks of grueling radiation treatments to ensure it will never return.

Sadoun decided to work through the treatments, with some days functioning more like rest days, others he felt like himself for his typical workday. Because of his transparency, his co-workers and clients understood the reality of his situation, especially during his fifth treatment, which is commonly considered the hardest to endure, he said.

“This is why work is so important for me,” Sadoun said. “No one should worry about the workplace when they are going through that. The workplace should be a place of support.”

After going public with his diagnosis, “people were truly thanking us and thanking me for taking the initiative and being transparent,” Sadoun said. “They were all telling me the same thing, which is ‘we have been in this situation.’”

But those notes of gratitude he received often took a turn. Not only were people scared for their life, but also of losing their jobs, and with that the salaries and health insurance needed to cover their treatments.

Through research, Publicis found that the support Sadoun experienced is treasured by cancer patients—92% say workplace support positively impacts their health. Yet just 50% of cancer patients feel comfortable revealing their diagnosis to their boss in fear of losing their job. And so Working With Cancer was born. It’s a global pledge corporations can make to take protecting the jobs and salaries of not just cancer patients but also caretakers of cancer patients into their own hands, especially as workplace protections lag begin in countries like the U.S. or India. The program has support from clients—and competitors—who are making similar pledges and have the option to publicize them.

Publicis’ pledge

Publicis’ pledge for its initiative involves four prongs:

  • It will secure the job and salary of any Publicis Groupe employee suffering from cancer for at least a year.
  • The company will provide personalized career support as employees return to work during and after their treatments.
  • Impacted employees will receive access to a group of properly trained peers to create an internal community of support.
  • Any employees taking on a caregiver role for a cancer patient in their immediate family will receive more flexibility and custom support.

Each company will make a different pledge based on their current policies, locations and other factors. Publicis said more than 97% of companies that it has approached have signed on, and claims the few that haven’t are because they have already made similar commitments.

As part of Working With Cancer, companies can make their pledges public on the initiative’s website. Some of the global brands participating include Adobe, Bank of America, Disney, Google, McDonald’s, Omnicom, Pepsico, Toyota and Walmart. Publicis also has the support of health organizations and charities like Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), Macmillan Cancer Research and the Gustave Roussy Institute. They will provide resources to guide organizations that wish to provide more support for their employees who have received cancer diagnoses.

“The second part is actually to launch a wake up call to the mass audience because everybody has a role to play to support cancer patients,” said Serrano, adding, “And if we are in fact creating a wake up call, we need big media.”

Publicis’ partners are donating $100 million in media for ads, like the one above that Le Truc created, about the pledge. Meta will also help Publicis Groupe reach one billion people on its platform. Publicis will initially target business audiences with display ads across business publications for World Cancer Day on Feb. 4.

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