Publicis Acquires Full Stake in AI Research Division

Dan Meier 24 May, 2023 

Agency holding group Publicis has bought a full stake in Publicis Sapient AI Labs, the artificial intelligence joint venture (JV) it co-founded in 2020 alongside tech firms Elder Research and Tquila.

Buying out its partners’ stakes (financial terms of the deal were not disclosed) gives the advertising giant full control of the business, which conducts AI research and development and provides data science services to large companies in Europe and North America.

Data science experts at Publicis Sapient AI Labs also design, build and implement predictive analytics solutions. The JV uses Publicis’ Applied Innovation Platform, a system that combines identity and enterprise data to help build business efficiency and cost optimisation models.

The acquisition enables Sapient to offer hackathons and “fusion workshops” in order to develop AI solutions. The company will additionally be able to run training programs for prompt engineering and large language model development.

“The acquisition of Publicis Sapient AI Labs reinforces our continued investment in innovation, as well as our commitment to staying ahead of the AI curve,” said Publicis chairman and CEO Arthur Sadoun. “Through its bolstered digital business transformation services, Publicis Sapient will help clients identify critical challenges and issues that AI and data science can solve to deliver world-class innovation.”

Intelligent design

Publicis has been investing heavily in AI for a number of years, launching its AI platform Marcel with Microsoft in 2018. Marcel was designed to connect employees via an app on their phones and desktops, harnessing AI to locate colleagues and case studies relevant to specific projects and products.

“The need for reinvention is stronger than ever,” Sadoun said at the time. “At Publicis Groupe, we haven’t waited to act. We have broken the divide between data, creativity and technology.” Since then – especially in the last few months – interest in AI has rocketed, with generative models taking consumers by storm; just this week, Adobe added its AI tool Firefly to Photoshop, allowing users to manipulate images through text prompts.

And advertising agencies are ensuring they are not left behind, developing AI as core parts of their businesses. Last month holding group Omnicom announced a partnership with Adobe, granting its agencies access to Firefly and business AI tool Sensei GenAI.

Meanwhile Sir Martin Sorrell said AI was creating efficiencies at S4 Capital, helping clients cut costs in a harsh economic environment. “If growth is going to be less, they’re going to have to manage their cost base much more effectively,” the founder told Reuters. The company uses AI to speed up copy-writing and enhance the ways ads are targeted and personalised, according to the firm.

But the creative side is also leveraging AI, with S4 Capital’s digital-first brand Media.Monks using “everything that is possible to use” in the video production process. By combining AI for business and creative applications, agencies are embracing the competitive advantages granted by the new technology.

“The acquisition of Publicis Sapient AI Labs will accelerate our generative AI offerings, playing a critical role in enabling our clients to apply data and AI solutions to solve complex business problems and build data-driven organisations at scale,” said Publicis Sapient CEO Nigel Vaz.

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