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Move over Marcel: Havas hits back with its own AI launch

Is this an attempt by Havas to steal the thunder from French rival Publicis Groupe?

On the very same day that Arthur Sadoun launched his much-vaunted new AI platform, Marcel, Havas has opened an AI innovation centre in Montreal called Havas X.

While Marcel is focused on connecting talent across its global network of agencies, Havas X is claiming to go one better, by serving clients as well as connecting the group.

Havas X will tackle the preoccupation of the moment – the customer journey – and is built around the new holy trinity of marketing: technology, data and creativity.

Yannick Bolloré, CEO of Havas Group and now chairman of Vivendi too, says: “Montreal is a nerve centre for innovation and an AI hotbed. This gives us a unique, unparalleled position in the marketplace. It enables us to leverage our talents, while at the same time, provide new technologies and solutions that enhance our clients’ brand and CX performance.”

BETC, Havas’ French creative powerhouse, has a stake in the new effort, alongside Havas New York and Havas Montreal.

Mercedes Erra, Founder and President of BETC, says: “BETC strongly encourages diversity and creative excellence, and Montréal embodies these values. Moreover, with the city located at the junction of Europe and North America, we share cultural and linguistic similarities that are complementary. The innovation centre’s unique offer will mean great achievements for our brands.”

Havas X will operate from the Montreal offices and is expected to employ 60 specialists by the end of 2020. Two Canadians will supervise the new venture – Jan-Nicolas Vanderveken, president and CEO of Havas Montreal, with Pierre-Benoit Lemieux, vice president of customer experience.

Unlike Publicis Groupe, Havas didn’t have to sacrifice awards entries for a year in order to raise the money to get its new AI venture off the ground. Probably Havas’ owner, media giant Vivendi, came up with the cash.

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