Publicis Groupe offers a first look at Marcel

The holding company demoed its much-hyped global collaboration platform and gave more details about its launch.

During a presentation at the first day of the VivaTech conference in Paris today, Publicis provided more details about the roll-out of its Marcel platform, as well as a first peek at what it might look like in action.

Marcel is described by Publicis Groupe as a “professional assistant” that uses AI to help the holding company deliver on its “Power of One” strategic approach and encourage collaboration between staff. Many of the demos expanded on capabilities that were first described when Marcel was announced last year, when Publicis Groupe revealed it was suspending participation in awards programs for a year to help fund the platform’s development.

Either by speaking or typing a command, Marcel allows Publicis Groupe staff to search for talent in other agencies, offices or markets to work on their own projects; help them find new projects to work on themselves; or search for inspiration by looking at previous work.

When searching for collaborators, users can look for peers who not only fill a particular role, but have experience within certain product categories or practices, such as digital or retail. On the flip side, they can also look for projects in need of staff with their own areas of expertise.

If someone is looking for inspiration, they can search case studies based on the product category or if they utilized elements like VR or data visulization, and reach out to staff that worked on a particular project. Those cases will be pulled from a database of Publicis’ own campaigns, as well as “The Work,” a new digital platform announced by Cannes Lions earlier this week that will host over 200,000 pieces of creative work, as well as the insights and data that informed them.

Staff can also crowdsource ideas from their peers, posting requests for projects like naming a new brand. It can also organize a user’s calendar, and make suggestions for when to block off time for lunch or provide information about a client they have a meeting with that day and their role within the assignment.

Marcel has also included capabilities for clients. During a beta test with Walmart – which consolidated its advertising business with Publicis Groupe in 2016 – the retailer placed an open brief through Marcel. The opportunity to apply to work on the brief was only delivered to Publicis Groupe staffers who wouldn’t have a conflict of interest and whose expertise matched what the client was looking for.

As Suffiyan Syed, head of product for Marcel at Publicis Groupe, showed off Marcel at VivaTech, he was also keen to point out all the ways in which technology – namely, those related to AI – helped Marcel deliver on its promised capabilities.

Natural language processing helps it understand the context and intent behind user commands (although, there were some technical issues where Marcel didn’t respond when Syed spoke during the live presentation). When users search cases for inspiration, the platform will use what it knows about a person – such as the accounts they are currently working on, or their own personal interests outside of work – to deliver more relevant results. When searching for collaborators, the system doesn’t just make suggestions based on what a staff member puts in their own profile, but by poring over every project they’ve worked on.

In addition to the live demos, Publicis has released a video showing what Marcel looks like when in use.

“You will have all of Publicis in the palm of your hand,” CEO Arthur Sadoun said at the presentation.

“The Power of One” is a strategic approach Publicis Groupe has been committed to in recent years, claiming that “de-siloing” the holding company will allow for greater collaboration between its talent – regardless of which agency they work for or which market they are based in – to improve efficiency across its network and deliver more value for clients.

Marcel is currently being tested by 100 users, and next month will release a beta version to 1,000 employees representative of all 80,000 Publicis Groupe staff by agency, brand, role and market. The feedback gained from that process will be used to refine the app, improve the user experience and potentially add new functions to the platform.

The company plans to begin the full rollout of Marcel by January 2019. Using the platform will not be mandatory, but Publicis has a goal to have 90% of its workforce using it by 2020.