Publicis Unveils AI Platform 'Marcel'

Publicis Groupe hosted more than 650 clients, staff, and press in Paris today to officially "unbox" Marcel, the Groupe's AI-powered innovation platform focused for now on little things that drive people crazy, like scheduling and time sheets.  

Developed with Microsoft, Marcel has so far gathered more than five billion data files of information from the Groupe's 80,000 employees across 1,200 entities and 200 specialties as well as thousands of clients. 

"Artificial intelligence (AI) can augment creativity," says Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. "Marcel is the accelerator." 

The platform's abilities — think of Alexa 2.0 — center around four key foundations: “Knowledge illuminates business,” industry, account and cultural intelligence. 

This “Knowledge Graph” connects both structured and unstructured data to map relationships within it, and processes, filters, connects and organizes this data to make it useful to those seeking information. 



For instance, users can see an overview of senior brand leaders handling the account as well as previous client interactions.  

Productivity turns the often boring and highly-manual processes like time sheets and expenses into seamless and easy tasks, an announcement that received an enormous round of applause from audience members. 

Connectivity finds, matches, casts and suggests the most appropriate people within the Groupe to connect, depending on people’s needs, interests, behavioral patterns and desires. 

Every day, Groupe staffers will receive six personalized "cards" that will be linked to current news such as internal queries, white papers, and event invitations. While some cards will be distributed universally, cards will be personalized based on each of the Groupe's 80,000 individuals. 

To that end, the Groupe used its agency Rokkan, which was seeking pitch advice for a tea brand brief by sending out a card to those with relevant expertise or those who had expressed being tea lovers.  

An Opportunity provides opportunities for workers beyond their day-to-day accounts. Walmart's pitch review was used as a recent example seeking contributions outside of the dedicated team. 

"Marcel is a journey to shift Publicis Groupe from a holding company to a platform and give creative minds the freedom to progress and thrive in this ever-changing industry," said Arthur Sadoun, chairman-CEO, Publicis Groupe. Chief creative officer Nick Law adds that oft-dismissed Marcel isn't simply a "search engine fed by a database."  

Marcel seeks to mimic how people actually communicate, particularly outside of the office where everything is seamlessly tied together. They take pains to emphasize it isn't designed to be an evil overlord seeking to control their workforce.  

Sadoun says he really had no choice to transform the company. "The industry is under massive pressure. Every day a bit more." He admits the criticism over his announcement a year ago only fueled the Groupe to view Marcel's development as a challenge. "Can we afford to have incremental change or go further if we want to save us?" he asks. It's time to break the industry in order to reinvent it, he says.  

Marcel's development was a total Groupe effort with technology and consulting arm Publicis.Sapient developing the Marcel user design and experience to build the Marcel platform. Publicis Communications’ BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty) created Marcel’s brand identity. The Marcel logo, for instance, transforms the a and e into eyeballs that are elevated above the rest of the platform's name.  

This alpha version of the undertaking brings together the expertise and inputs from a diverse team of more than 100 people across the company including Publicis.Sapient, Publicis Communications, Publicis Media, Re:Sources, IT, legal, data privacy, procurement, and human resources. 

Sadoun dismissed questions about the total cost, noting that it won't cost clients anything since it will be provided as a service. He adds that the Groupe's decision to avoid Cannes isn't necessarily a cost-saving measure, with Sadoun noting that today's event cost a lot of dough, and that several Groupe members including Law will be on this year's jury.  

Still, the Groupe admits Marcel is a "journey of experimentation" in which there will be "highs and lows," says Carla Serrano, chief strategy officer, Publicis Groupe. To underscore that comment, a few product demonstrations ran into some technical glitches although the Groupe is upfront about this serving as an evolution. 

It may not automatically deliver better creative, but as long as people have less time on tedious tasks, all work is likely improved.  

Marcel launches in June accessible via an app, but will have many manifestations, say Groupe executives. 

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