Arthur Sadoun

Holding Company Chiefs

'We’re not seeing fear and resistance to AI' : Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun

Ahead of Cannes Lions, the Publicis Groupe chief addressed a few of the potential trends that will be discussed at the festival of creativity this year

By Stephen Lepitak

We are just days away from yet another year of Cannes Lions taking place, where most of the world's advertising leadership will gather to discuss industry trends, review the output from the sector and discuss where things are going in the short term. In advance, we spoke with the holding company chiefs from the Big Six agency networks for their take on a few of the potential industry discussion points.

Here we speak with Arthur Sadoun, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe.

After such a successful few years in terms of business performance, how do you ensure you are keeping ahead of the game in terms of meeting client expectations? 

We have been making big bold moves for the past decade, investing more than €9 billion in AI, data and tech, with the acquisition of Sapient, Epsilon and the creation of our platform Marcel, and fully integrating them with our creative and media capabilities through the Power of One. 

As a result, today we have the proprietary data, the single platform structure, and the teams, including more than 45,000 engineers and data analysts, to help our clients truly unlock the full potential of AI. With those foundations in place, we are continuing to invest in our talent and tech, as demonstrated by our additional €300 million investment in AI, to lead the change in our industry, with and for our clients. 

What sort of pressure does that put you under to maintain the momentum you have built? 

We’ve actually been sustaining momentum for the past four years. After definitively extracting ourselves from the holding company pack in 2023, in Q1 this year we delivered the highest growth in the industry for the eighth consecutive quarter, leading to material market share gains.

We’re now focused on maintaining this dynamic, in what is still a challenging environment. Our leadership in personalisation at scale, our new business wins and our platform organisation mean we were able to confirm our guidance for the full year, and we expect to continue to grow twice as fast as the industry average, while delivering the best financial KPIs.     

How have your creative agencies and departments evolved with the addition of Gen AI technology? Can you offer an example of a campaign that included its use?

When it comes to the conception, presentation and production of ideas, creative agencies are constantly adapting and evolving in their use of Gen AI. And there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what this really means for our creative talent. We’ve all heard the question: "Will creative talents be replaced by AI?" The answer is simple: of course not.

Let's take the example of the Women's Football campaign for Orange, which recently won The Grandy, Best of Show at One Show, Grand Clio and Black Pencil at D&AD.

The VFX for this film were done in part in a "traditional" way, and in part using AI. But if the AI technology had been able to do 100 per cent of that technical work in one click (and it probably will soon), our creatives would have been very happy to let it. Because the simple fact of knowing that executing the work in this way is a real possibility opens the creatives’ minds and frees them up to go looking for the right idea for that execution. 

What is your advice to anyone who doesn’t want to adopt the use of AI into their work and believes they are capable without?

Honestly, at Publicis we’re not seeing fear and resistance to integrating AI. It’s actually the opposite. Creative and production teams are pushing to explore the application and the boundaries of these new tools and integrate them into their everyday work, with the knowledge that ultimately, it’s human talent that will bring the real creative value to the final product. 


What are the main challenges marketers now face when it comes to measurement and how is business supporting them to overcome it?

The deprecation of third-party cookies has been pushed back yet again, but it’s as vital as ever that businesses get properly prepared for the cookie-less world. To help them navigate that, we have built an identity-led solution through Epsilon, its CoreID, and unique retailer and publisher partnerships. This ID solution empowers brands to take back control of their customer relationships by connecting with real people across the full customer journey and make investment decisions informed by real-time measurement and validated by transactions, in a privacy-first and fully compliant opt-in model.  


What impact had been made for the business from your people returning to the office albeit still not on a full-time basis perhaps?

This wasn’t actually a big change for many of our agencies, which were already back at least three days a week, in some cases more. We knew that rolling that approach out to the entire Groupe was necessary in order for us to continue to outperform the industry, especially in what is still a difficult global context. Global pick up has been extremely positive, and we haven’t seen any talent attrition because of it.


Cannes Lions has introduced a Creator track this year but how challenging is it for agencies to partner with creators external to the business?

Creators are independent artists with their own unique identity and voice and that needs to be respected. But when you work for a brand there are so many important elements to keep in mind.

Without strategic and creative guidance from someone who understands the brand and the context, placing the brand narrative completely in the hands of creators can miss the point, or backfire. There is a significant amount of creative translation work that clients need to do to adapt their brief to the creator's culture, in order to respect their authorship while achieving the brand's objectives. And no one can do that better than agencies.

Follow Creative Salon's Cannes Lions 2024 coverage through our dedicated content section.


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