SINGAPORE/SYDNEY: Alcohol giant Diageo, a Publicis Groupe client in Australia, has expressed concern about the holding group's decision to not enter awards for at least the next year, calling it a "mistake".

The new Chief Executive Officer of Publicis Groupe, Arthur Sardoun, has put a "pause" on its agencies from entering awards shows, trade shows or any other paid marketing efforts for at least a year. According to AdWeek, the internal memo – which was leaked to trade media – stated: "This is mandatory and exceptions will not be approved."

The launch of Marcel – an AI-driven collaboration assistant – has been given as the reason why the holding group will not participate in awards for the next year: "We are optimising resource to invest in Marcel," said Publicis Media CEO for APAC, Gerry Boyle, in a statement to WARC.

"Marcel was officially announced this week to all of Publicis Groupe and the reaction is very positive," he added. "Everyone who believes in the Power of One and increased collaboration between solutions to improve our offering to clients is naturally behind this."

But Syl Saller, global chief marketing and innovation officer at Diageo, said in comments reported by Advertising Age that the decision not to enter industry awards is "really problematic".

Diageo uses Publicis Groupe agencies Leo Burnett and MediaVest in Australia, where according to Nielsen, the drinks giant – whose brands include Smirnoff, Captain Morgan's, Guinness and Johnnie Walker – spends about A$20m on media every year.

"I do think it's a mistake because creatives in agencies do value awards, and one of the reasons we value awards is we have seen enough data that awards for creativity do lead to better results," she said.

The decision not to be involved may also impact the holding group's agency brands' ability to build relationships with potential clients at Cannes.

"Some of the agencies I've met, big and small, I come away from the dinners or meetings thinking, 'Wow those are great people to work with, we should be thinking about them next time something comes up for a pitch'," said Mark Sandys, global head of beer and Baileys at Diageo, in comments to Ad Age.

"And that's something Publicis is just not going to be in the conversation in."

Sir Martin Sorrell has also questioned the value of Cannes, which has become increasingly expensive at the same time as agencies are coming under greater pressure from clients to do more for less money.

Data sourced from B&T, Ad News, Advertising Age; additional content by WARC staff