Publicis Goes All In On AI

Fresh off a robust growth year in 2023, Publicis Groupe announced today that it is spending 300 million euros (about $327 million at today’s exchange rate) over the next three years to fully transform from a platform company to what it calls an “intelligent system company” with a proprietary “CoreAI” backbone integrated throughout all operations at the company.  

The big bet on AI follows growth for full-year 2023 that exceeded expectations — the company confirmed that its organic net revenue growth for the year reached 6.3%. That’s higher than the 5.5% to 6% growth the company guided to in October, which was one of several growth upgrades it made throughout the year. While the other holding groups haven’t released full-year growth figures, Publicis is all but certain to be the leader, in most cases by a wide margin. Full 2023 results will be issued Feb. 8. Investors pushed the stock up nearly 4% on the news to a record 92.10 euro on the Paris Exchange Thursday. 



Along with the announcement, the company released an hour-long video presentation designed to explain how AI will be utilized throughout the company. Presenters include CEO Arthur Sadoun, Chief Strategy Officer Carlo Serrano, Nigel Vaz, CEO, Publicis Sapient, Dave Penski CEO Publicis Media and Sam Levine Archer, Chief Solutions Architect Publicis North America. 

In the presentation, Sadoun kicks things off explaining how the firm has evolved over the past six years from a traditional ad marketing holding company to a “platform company.” As he explains, the firm made three big bets that put data and technology front and center at the company.  

Two of those bets were the acquisitions of data giant Epsilon and digital transformation firm Sapient. The third bet was moving to a country business model, signaling a shift to both a single P&L and operational backbone.  

Publicis Sapient is leading the effort to develop the layer of AI that is being infused throughout the organization. For two years now it has been quietly using an internal platform to test accelerated AI applications. It is working with outside firms like Nvidia, Google, OpenAI and others. 

The Groupe began engineering CoreAI in the second half of 2023 and plans to begin rolling out capabilities in the first half of this year, presenting internal test results at the Viva Tech conference in Paris in May. Scott Hagedorn, Global Chief Solutions Architect said the company is currently focused on developing “end to end use cases” for the pharmaceutical, CPG and Automotive categories to present at that conference.  

One of the main objectives behind the shift to an “intelligent systems company” Sadoun explains is to “connect the knowledge of the enterprise to the individual [employee] and to operate at the speed of AI.” Put another way, the company explains, “everyone within Publicis will become a data analyst, an engineer, an intelligence partner,” or at least be able to access the data within the organization enabling them to function in each of those roles. As the executives noted numerous times during the presentation, a myriad of tasks that now take weeks or months will take just minutes or seconds when CoreAI is rolled out.  

And some manual and repetitive tasks will likely go away altogether. Hagedorn stressed that “upskilling” talent is a priority, if not a must, during the three-year transition from platform to intelligent system. 

In fact, half of the 100-million-euro investment earmarked for 2024 is dedicated to staff issues, including upskilling and other types of training as well as recruitment. The other half will be invested in technology including licenses, IT software and cloud infrastructure.  

CoreAI will unify all of the company’s data including 2.3 billion people profiles from around the world and trillions of additional data points across content, media and business performance and transformation and internal communications system Marcel.  

The presentation highlights five areas that will be transformed by CoreAI including media, creative/production, insight, software and operations.  

One of the examples cited during the presentation was the company’s own effort to generate 100,000 personalized New Year greetings earlier this month, one for each employee at the firm.  

Serrano noted that personalization at scale has become critical in the CPG space given the acceleration of shifting consumer preferences. The solution, she said is creating “target audiences of individuals.” AI will do the heavy lifting on personalization targeting, “reducing days of work to seconds.” 

Penski noted similar benefits in media planning and buying, asserting that AI can get clients in markets where they need to be much faster and reducing “weeks of planning into minutes.” 

Hagedorn notes that media teams can spend three to six weeks building visualization models and dashboards for media plans only to have the client say they want another view. With CoreAI, he added the fix would take about 10 seconds.  

As for the financial impact of the AI investments, the 100 million euro allocated for 2024 will be funded by “internal efficiencies,” Sadoun said, with no dilutive impact on operating margin. The 2025 investment will generate some incremental growth.  

View the full AI presentation here.  



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