- After two years of development, Publicis has launched Publicis Spine, a platform that will allow its clients to better target individual consumers, as reported by Ad Age.
- Lisa Donohue, previously Starcom Global's brand president, will become the CEO of Publicis Spine. John Sheehy, who formerly served as president of global clients for Publicis Media, will fill Donohue's role. Donahue will report to Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun and Publicis Media CEO Steve King and oversee a team of 3,500 engineers, data scientists, analysts and tech leaders.
- Spine will include a cloud-based platform called PeopleCloud that combines clients' first-party data with data from Publicis and its vendors to create unique customer IDs and target specific individuals. The platform will serve consumers with discrete ads they will appreciate rather than intrusive formats like banner ads and pre- and post-roll video, King told Ad Age. He also said Publicis is reorganizing Publicis.Sapient's digital business transformation assets into six or seven industry practice verticals including finance, automotive, energy and healthcare.
As the major agency holding companies continue to be hit by serious industry headwinds, Publicis is looking to deepen its technology offerings to stay competitive. Spine joins other recent initiatives including Marcel, an artificial intelligence-driven assistant designed to allow Publicis to connect people with different skill sets — such as designers with data scientists, robotics with retail specialists, consultants with creators — in order to better serve its brand clients.
Both Spine and Marcel emphasize putting the clients' needs first, a necessary step as agencies continue to face scrutiny for non-transparent business practices and failures to achieve true digital transformation. These factors, among others, have led many marketers in recent years to put their agency contracts under review, move more of their work to in-house teams and turn to consultancies like Accenture and Deloitte over traditional shops. Jerome Bodin, an analyst at Nexis, recently released a research report that outlined how Accenture could be a credible buyer for beleaguered Publicis, WPP and the rest of the "big five" holding companies.
Spine sounds like another initiative that builds out Publicis' abilities as a martech vendor as much a media buying or creative house. Not all of these developments have been announced or integrated smoothly. In June, around the Cannes Lions advertising festival, CEO Sadoun laid down an edict that forbade all Publicis agencies from participating in awards shows or any other paid promotional activities for a year. Sadoun, who had only recently filled the chief executive role, said the time off was partially intended to keep employees focused on building out Marcel, but an internal memo uncovered at the time suggested it was a cost-savings measure as well.
Sadoun was criticized both by outside forces and people within Publicis for the rollout and the scope of the awards ban.