Sadoun muses on career expectancy as awards/Marcel controversy refuses to go away

Firing seems to be new Publicis boss Arthur Sadoun’s mind – in response to questioning at an ISBA (UK advertisers) lunch this week.

Sadoun (below) has pulled Publicis out of all awards this year, putting the money into developing a new AI gizmo Marcel, which seems to be Publicis’ version of Alexa or Siri, for internal use.

“I have decided I don’t care how long I’m going to stay but I’m going to have an impact,” he said. “I’m happy to get fired, I don’t care, I have other things to do. My responsibilities are that we’re committed to changing things. Will we succeed? I don’t know.”

He also said: “On Monday I took a call with a French client and the relationship has been quite difficult and he said ‘you know, Arthur, I was calling to fire you but I’ve seen what you’re doing in Cannes and I get the impression you’re making progress so I’m going to give you another six months.’

“So, if we want to be relevant we need to be at the core of transformation and to do that we need to change. We can’t operate the way we did 20 years ago.”

Sadoun may rightly be miffed that most coverage of his doings (he’s only been in the top CEO job for a month or so) has focused on the awards business – although he shouldn’t be surprised, having chosen to announce it at Cannes, the biggest awards fest of all and one rather dependent on Publicis dosh – rather than the supposed benefits of Marcel and its role to play in the still somewhat opaque “transformation” happening at Publicis.

But his predecessor Maurice Levy, the long-serving CEO and still hovering in the background as chairman of the Publicis Advisory Board – was not noted for wading into things like a bull in a china shop (bemusing and aggravating lots of his staff in the process) although some of Maurice’s pearls did seem to lose something in translation.

But Levy skilfully positioned himself as the nice guy to long-time rival WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell, who has his fair share of bullish tendencies.

Sadoun may talk himself out of this one but another such cock-up may lead to the discovery that Levy isn’t – always – the nice guy.

And Marcel, named after Publicis’ founder, had better be good.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.