- AI platform Marcel was intended to help Publicis stand out in an industry where the largest holding companies had rapidly lost market share and stock value. But it ran into problems out of the gate.
- Microsoft ultimately beat out Google for the contract, and CEO Satya Nadella co-presented the beta version of Marcel at an event in mid-2018. But Publicis executives largely stopped talking about the project as other investments took precedence.
- After several delays, the platform is now scheduled to make its worldwide debut in mid-2020.
In the summer of 2017, on the first day of advertising's biggest and flashiest awards festival, the Cannes Lions, holding company Publicis Groupe shocked the industry by announcing that it would skip all trade shows and awards for an entire year to develop Marcel, a new AI-driven project management platform that was supposed to unite all 84,000 employees around the world.The platform was supposed to launch in the US, Publicis' biggest market, by the end of 2019. But it encountered delays, internal agency politics, and a showdown between tech giants Google and Microsoft, which competed for the multi-million dollar contract to develop Marcel.Six sources who worked on the project spoke to Business Insider for an in-depth look at the process. Key takeaways:
- Sources said no real concepting or development was completed prior to the announcement, and leadership met with resistance from skeptical employees.
- Publicis-owned design firm Sapient was tasked with developing the app, but internal tensions arose over issues like a pitch in which 27 companies competed to help create Marcel. Google and Microsoft were the finalists, with Sapient's IT and AI teams preferring the former and Publicis leadership choosing the latter.
- The beta version of Marcel debuted at Publicis' own VivaTech conference in Paris in May 2018. Since then, leadership has mostly downplayed the platform, focusing instead on far larger concerns like the $4.4 billion acquisition of data collection company Epsilon. Former executives who worked on the project now see it as a cautionary tale.
Read more of Business Insider's coverage of Publicis Groupe here:
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