'The Platform is Not Here to Judge': Sadoun Opens Up (A Little) About Marcel

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Publicis Groupe's Arthur Sadoun (center) with Publicis leadership announce Marcel, the A.I.-driven digital assistant platform for Publicis Groupe employees.
Publicis Groupe's Arthur Sadoun (center) with Publicis leadership announce Marcel, the A.I.-driven digital assistant platform for Publicis Groupe employees. Credit: Publicis Groupe via YouTube.

Publicis Groupe employees and onlookers took to Twitter Monday to ask Chairman-CEO Arthur Sadoun questions about the holding company's just-announced plans to build an AI platform. But save for a rough napkin sketch, details on Marcel -- the platform's name -- are still slim.

In his responses to questions — some of which came from accounts indicating they were current Publicis employees — Sadoun defended the company's explosive decision to pull out of awards for a year to shift spend to building the tool, which will be used to help Publicis quickly assemble teams across the group and help those teams virtually work together. Sadoun said the software would allow teams around the world and across Publicis to begin "working together like never before."

One creative from Saatchi Budapest asked if in the future he'd be able to work with Digitas NYC on a brief. "That's the idea," Sadoun responded.

But when it came to how Marcel would really work, Sadoun was more coy. Asked to provide a sketch of what exactly Marcel would deliver, Sadoun tweeted a photo of a napkin with the word "Talent" with four arrows pointed at it drawn on it.

"It will put our talent at the center," he tweeted from the @ArthurSadoun account, which seemed to have been expressly set up for the Q&A. By day's end it had 1,698 followers.

Sadoun was also mum about how much the platform would cost. One user asked if the spending on Marcel would cost "millions" or "tens of millions." Sadoun merely answered that it would be a "big investment." Another asked if the events pause was a move to make Publicis more profitable and eventually sell it. Sadoun responded that the company would be investing more than it would be saving.

Others wondered if Marcel would be used to outsource projects to less costly markets within the Publicis network, in an era of clients looking to cut costs. Sadoun said "obviously not. Marcel is a booster, not a cost cutter."

Employees asked questions about how the implementation of Marcel would affect their work lives, like whether the platform would factor into employee appraisals or staff performance, and whether the platform would result in them taking on more projects.

Sadoun told one that "The platform is here to help not to judge" and another that "Marcel is intended to create more opportunities for you rather than additional work," but didn't provide specifics on what that meant. He said the platform would be connected to Publicis' HR platform for real-time job updates, and that "Everyone will have a rich profile with their skills, experience, super powers, passions. Marcel will find projects that match."

Employees also raised concerns about missing out on awards, which many use to negotiate raises or get jobs.

Sadoun told one: "Send your best work to your Global Creative Director and we'll make sure it gets recognized." He told others they could submit work for future awards.

Sadoun tweeted that the pause in awards would take place from July 1 of this year until July 1, 2018, and that the next awards show Publicis will invest in would be Clio Awards in 2018. Marcel is officially set to launch at VivaTech, Publicis' annual technology conference, in 2018.

Whether they love it or hate it, most would agree it's a big bet for Publicis. One user asked Sadoun, "If Marcel fails, will you resign?"

"No," he responded, with an emoji with Xes for eyes. "I'll probably get fired."

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