Publicis and Microsoft have launched an ambitious AI platform called Marcel

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun
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  • Ad agency giant Publicis has launched Marcel, the ambitious AI platform it has created in partnership with Microsoft.
  • The idea is to help Publicis’ many different agencies work more closely together, where previously they have been siloed.
  • Marcel will help identify employees with expertise in particular areas, or who might be best suited to help with a pitch.
  • This is all against a backdrop of brand marketers spending less money with ad agencies, hitting agency group shares and forcing them to modernise fast.

Publicis, one of the four global ad agency holding groups, today launched its ambitious artificial intelligence platform Marcel in partnership with Microsoft. The ad group will be hoping Marcel can knit together the diverse talent across its agencies, as the wider industry undergoes a major shift.

Marcel is named after Publicis Groupe’s founder, Marcel Bleustein Blanche. It’s a company-wide AI assistant that is designed to help agency employees connect with one another.

There’s a wider context here. Publicis underwent a major reorganisation that brought its different agencies closer together to better serve its brand clients. It created four divisions in 2016 that would cover its digital, healthcare, communications, and media agencies. The company is also beginning to house its agencies in single buildings across its different locations. That’s against a backdrop of brand marketers reevaluating how much they spend on advertising, sending agency group share prices falling.

With Marcel, Publicis wants employees from its different agency brands to tap into each other’s expertise, where conventionally ad agencies have tended towards silos. As CEO Arthur Sadoun described it, the idea is to give employees’ the “power of 80,000,” the number of Publicis employees.

For example, Marcel will recommend individuals across the group who can take part in ongoing client projects or pitches. Traditionally pitches have been restricted to one agency.

And if someone in one agency is looking for a colleague with particular knowledge or expertise, Marcel can help find that person, who might perhaps be in a different agency in a different country. The assistant will also have access to people’s calendars to take their workload and availability into account.

Marcel will also help take care of more tedious administrative tasks, such as timesheets.

Publicis said it was a “significant” undertaking to create Marcel, and the company signed Microsoft on as a technology partner in January.

The agency group caused shockwaves when it originally announced Marcel at Cannes Lions last June, the advertising industry’s annual hoop-la. The company said it would pull out of all awards ceremonies to focus on building out the AI platform, meaning it would miss out on Cannes this year. Publicis said its events hiatus would end in July, meaning agency executives will be able to return to drinking rosé on the beach in 2019.