CANNES: One year after the announcement that Publicis Groupe, the world’s third-largest advertising holding group, would cease marketing and award spend, the company has revealed the source of its attention. Here’s what we learned.

At first, Marcel – so named after the group’s founder Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet – will debut as an app for employees’ smartphones. When opened, the app will offer the user a ‘Daily Digest’ comprised of six different cards made up of daily news, insight articles, company messages, or proactively suggesting other Publicis employees to connect with. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: What we learned about Publicis’ Marcel)

The final part indicates the broader purpose of the platform, which is being built in partnership with Microsoft. Last June, CEO Arthur Sadoun warned that the platform would be a strain on resources, but without such a transformation “we will never be able to transform in the right way and make sure our people progress”.

That progression will take two key forms: expert search and open briefs. The expert search component appears to use natural language processing in order to direct employees to people with experience in certain areas. Open briefs, meanwhile, have the potential to extend Publicis’ offer to the full breadth and depth of the group.

Here, the idea is to offer opportunities to people in smaller agencies or less visible geographies to pitch for new and different work. In one example shown in the launch video, Walmart, a US mainstay brand, chooses a small agency from Madrid to work on the brief. While opportunities are important, the changes that will truly unlock this resource may be more profound than a platform.

However, the move is undoubtedly brave and well-intentioned. In many businesses, connected technology has not been able to augment people’s working lives, and instead it has made people busier. Publicis executives, speaking at Cannes, quoted a young employee who put their desire elegantly: “I just want to work the way I live.”

Sadoun’s reasoning remains compelling. The challenge for agencies, he said, is no longer coming from direct competitors. Other competitors, notably tech platforms or consultancies, have deep pockets and are experienced in proving their worth. Agencies, meanwhile, “have difficulty in justifying our value,” Sadoun said.

What’s more, spending on marketing is not going down, he maintained, pointing to experience as an investment that CEOs as well as CMOs claim as a focus. The real problem is that they’re not spending on agencies. “Are we going to succeed? It’s too early to say.”

Sourced from WARC