Publicis Groupe has revealed its latest evolution centered around artificial intelligence-powered services while reporting that it continues to outperform its competitors with +6.3% organic growth for the full financial year.
The agency network, which owns Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, Sapient, Epsilon and Starcom, made $14,276 million (13,099 million euros) during the last financial year, an achievement it already aims to beat with the introduction of CoreAI, its centralized tool that will allow its 100,000 employees access to the business enterprise capabilities.
With plans to layer the platform across the business before the end of Q2 this year, Publicis will also invest around $330 million (300 million euros) over the next three years with its core aim of becoming an “intelligent system.” In 2024, $110 million (100 million euros) will be split equally and invested in technology and talent through upskilling and hiring.
“We are bringing together all the data of the group, all the knowledge of the group,” Arthur Sadoun, chief executive of Publicis Groupe, told Adweek. “That means all the knowledge of the group; our proprietary data that we have with Epsilon, Citrus Ad and Profitero. Everything that we know about creative assets with Marcel and the 35 years of coding experience through Sapient.”
Publicis Groupe initially introduced an AI tool to its staff with Marcel in 2019, acting as a connecting platform to its staff globally and possessing the ability to help identify employees’ skill sets for tackling client briefs.
An hour-long presentation video to introduce and explain the concept of CoreAI to staff and clients, featuring Sadoun and key executives involved in its development, has also been produced.
Core AI’s offering
Having started work on the offer last summer, CoreAI is being built and trained in-house by 45,000 engineers and data scientists within Sapient to build models around Publicis’ assets.
The platform will work across five agency disciplines: Insight, Media, Creative and production, Software and Operations.
Once live, the hope is that the platform, which will be accessible through the already centralized Marcel AI system, will be able to access trillions of data points, 2.3 billion personal profiles globally, millions of creative assets and 650 billion impression bids daily.
This shift to an intelligent system comes from the bold bet we made on the platform organization six years ago, now most of our competition is going to try to keep up.
—Arthur Sadoun, chief executive, Publicis Groupe
“I love this notion of how everybody has turned into an intelligent partner for their client,” said chief strategy officer Carla Serrano, who believes it will democratize skillsets internally. “All of a sudden, all that data and all that knowledge and all that experience, it’s going to be on a conversational layer for everybody.”
The aim is for it to conduct research and insight work to guide marketing strategies in seconds, work that a team of researchers would have spent weeks preparing. It will also be able to develop multiple creative renderings, having processed a client brief and conducting online media buying and optimization services.
“We’re going to be more precise. Our producers will rapidly produce content personalized for micro audiences and fit for platforms using AI-assisted production tools – we’re going to do things we’ve never done before,” she added.
The vision and potential impact of CoreAI
As it alters the speed at which people work across the company, Publicis will need to refigure how it operates, including how it values its services and charges clients accordingly.
Sadoun believes that the speed of operations, especially within the media space, will make its offer more competitive to clients but denies it being an efficiency play, claiming it to be a route where Publicis can support its clients to grow faster in a way its competitors currently do not.
Serrano added that clients were already asking for more content at a faster pace and that the business would like to focus more on outcome-based deliverables and performance within media, something that will become the norm across the industry.
One key ambition in creating CoreAI is that it will operate without bias, being trained through the inclusion of diverse and representative data.
Serrano admits that is a difficult task to set, which is why they are using frameworks and including what she describes as the inclusion of “almost a DEI training model” to ensure representation within the results.
She also explained that another level of governance is being introduced through frameworks that will to focus on bias within the creative output of the platform, something that has been in development for the last couple of years.
This was recently tested through the company’s annual New Year’s Wishes campaign, which saw it release personalized gen AI content for each of its 10,000 employees. Serrano admitted that the comedic training model needed work to “tone down” some of the toilet humor it offered up.
“There’s a lot of us that are interested in working on the basis that if we are to live in an AI-led paradigm then wouldn’t it be great to create one that is better than the one that we have, which is biased while living in a patriarchal system … That’s just legacy. So we’re very focused on that,” she continued.
In June, Publicis became the first advertising holding company to join The Coalition of Content Provenance Authenticity, a joint development foundation project that aims to unite tech and media organizations to set standards around content authentication.
Creativity remains core
Ultimately, Publicis’ roots remain within the creative sector, a legacy not lost on Sadoun, who denies any interest in becoming a technology or AI business. He quotes founder Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet’s belief that creativity remains the same while everything else changes.
“This is how we want to evolve,” he stated. “One of our biggest differentiators is creativity and always keeping in mind that we have to do that at the service of our people.”