Publicis Groupe Is Building an AI-Powered Professional Assistant for Its 80,000 Employees

Marcel will make collaboration easier

YouTube: Publicis Groupe

Cannes, FRANCE—Imagine having an app on your phone that alerted you to an exciting brief happening in your agency’s Mumbai office, even if you’re based in London or L.A. That’s what Publicis Groupe is planning for its 80,000 employees across 200 disciplines in 30 countries.

Today the network announced it will begin work on Marcel—the very first professional assistant powered by AI and machine learning.

Arthur Sadoun, the newly minted CEO of Publicis Groupe hinted at the news when he took over the role from Maurice Lévy at the start of June. In a video address to employees, Sadoun noted that he wanted to shift Publicis from a network to a platform.

“There is no way we are going to be a platform if we don’t build one. We want to build a platform at the core of our organization that will totally transform the way we interact, in that it will actually change the way we operate and give another meaning and another future to our talents,” Sadoun said.

That led way to Marcel. Named after the group’s founder Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, Marcel is described as part Alexa, part Google for Work, part creative community Behance and part Kickstarter. (The Kickstarter part comes from the idea that employees will eventually be able to bid for projects they want to work on). Marcel will be built using technology from Sapient, but people within the network will ensure that Marcel is more than just a tech platform, but a “human platform,” Mark Tutssel, global COO of Leo Burnett Worldwide and chair of Publicis Communications’ global creative board, said.

Some of the key features of this AI-powered professional assistant include the ability for employees to apply to work on projects across the globe, an idea derived from a global talent survey that Publicis conducted roughly eight months ago. One major insight from the survey was that many of the youngest employees wanted access to projects all over the world. “It might be a copywriter in the Philippines, but who says they won’t be the one that’s going to crack that Tide brief in New York for the Super Bowl,” Carla Serrano, chief strategy officer of Publicis Communications, said.

The network hopes that Marcel will allow for a new way of doing business and a new way to spark ideas globally. “If we are looking to create an environment where people’s ideas are listened to, people’s ideas incubated, nurtured and grown, this is the platform for that. Really it’s creativity without borders,” Tutssel said. “I think it will radically change the way we behave and the way we think about work because everything has an opportunity to evolve and grow.”

Marcel can then use its matching engine to pair the right people with the rights skills and experiences on certain projects. It will also help agencies assemble the perfect teams for client work. “The algorithm is going to be able to assemble the perfect team and also suggest team members that you might not thought you might require for certain projects,” Serrano said.

Clients will be another key focus for the platform. Marcel will be able to connect clients with the right expert within the network to answer any and all questions.

How long will it take? The team plans to debut Marcel in exactly one year at the group’s technology conference, Viva Tech, held annually in Paris. In the meantime, Sadoun noted that Publicis Groupe will focus any time and investment that would have been put into promotional spending for the group, into Marcel “whether it be industry events or award shows, anything that has to do with promoting ourselves in order to make sure that our people and our money is put in the right place,” Sadoun said.

Added Tutssel: “Nothing has really happened in this industry. That’s not a criticism of this industry, there’s just a lot of talk. This is an act. This is a concrete plan to design something that has scale that allows co-creation and collaboration at scale.”

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