Publicis Groupe Introduced Marcel in the US This Week. But What, Exactly, Is It?

Global launch of the connectivity platform has been accelerated in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic

marcel logo
The platform, though highly touted, still has some early adopters in the U.S. wondering what it is. Publicis Groupe

Key insights:

Marcel is here.

Near the end of March, Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun announced in an internal video that the holding company was accelerating the global launch of its AI-driven connectivity platform Marcel, beginning with the U.S. this week, citing the need to stay connected to meet both employee and client needs.

Publicis Groupe chief strategy officer Carla Serrano told Adweek that a beta version of Marcel was introduced in the U.K. last summer and optimized throughout the year. The company had previously planned on a global launch for June.

“We were monitoring U.K. usage. When COVID-19 started to hit, usage went up,” Serrano said.

"It's nice to see that it actually exists after so much fanfare and gossip about it being a waste of money. As it stands, it's a pretty simple version ... but I'm hopeful they will roll out some new features."
Publicis Groupe employee

After being introduced in the U.S. this Monday, the platform hit over 50% engagement within two days, with 14,010 activated profiles in U.S. and U.K., according to Serrano. There was 53% adoption in the U.S. and 72% in the U.K. To incentivize employees to opt-in and use the program, Publicis Groupe pledged to donate $10 per employee who signs up to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

A Publicis Groupe employee who spoke to Adweek under the condition of anonymity expressed appreciation for the donations to the organization.

“It’s also nice to see that [Marcel] actually exists after so much fanfare and gossip about it being a waste of money. As it stands, it’s a pretty simple version (at least in the U.S.), but I’m hopeful they will roll out some new features,” they said. “There isn’t really an ‘AI’ to it yet.”

Publicis Groupe maintains that increased engagement should help the platform’s performance.

“From an AI standpoint, the more connectivity, the smarter it gets,” Serrano said.

Marcel includes a feature called Jobs, publishing openings within Publicis Groupe. In the U.K. launch, these were made available internally to Publicis Groupe employees a week before the jobs were posted externally. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, such opportunities have been limited to existing Publicis Groupe employees.

Another feature, called Marcel Gigs, rolled out with the U.S. expansion and offers temporary assignments to Publicis Groupe employees.

“It’s a way to match people and create a culture of engagement, hand raising and career expansion,” Serrano said.

The Publicis Groupe employee characterized Gigs as the most exciting element of the platform. “You don’t get paid extra for them, but right now, I think they are great because people working on clients hit hard by COVID (i.e. huge travel clients) can find work elsewhere in the company,” they said. “I’m grateful for anything Publicis does to avoid laying people off.”

Other features include Daily Digest, which provides employees with content around Publicis Groupe news and updates related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“A lot of our work right now is putting together scenario plans for crisis and recovery. When you think about the tracking of COVID-19 right now, to some degree, agencies in China have a good idea of what recovery looks like now that they’re back in offices,” Serrano said, adding that Publicis Groupe is working with a lot of intelligence from those agencies.

“One of the things that we’ve launched is the COVID-19 Knowledge Hub,” she added, which includes sharing lessons learned from areas such as China and Italy at different stages of the pandemic curve across the network.

“The information as a group and connectivity is really important, because of the feelings of isolation [and the] disconnectedness of people,” she said. “Marcel can be the hub for leadership news, group news, and healthcare and wellness benefits.”

In addition to a current partnership with meditation app Headspace, Serrano said Publicis Groupe is pursuing additional partnerships, including a bespoke workout program through luxury fitness company Equinox and training seminars through LinkedIn.

Keeping Marcel safe for all

The platform, though highly touted, still has some early adopters in the U.S. wondering what it is, exactly.

"The men who built it built it like a dating platform. Women weren’t in the core of the design process, so it wasn’t designed to protect women. It was a glaring oversight."
Publicis Groupe agency employee

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.