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Published: July 4, 2017 2:08 AM

The executives of Publicis Groupe announce the next step of ‘Power of One’

Publicis Groupe to sit out awards; to invest in Marcel: Marcel, a platform powered by AI and machine learning, is set to attract all monies that Publicis Groupe spends on participating in awards shows and the like. The Groupe is looking for “2.5% cost synergies for 2018”. This move was announced by CEO and chairman Arthur Sadoun, as he marked the next step of ‘Power of One’. Sadoun said, “Marcel is another milestone in our ambition to become a platform at the service of our clients… It’s time to draw a line in the sand for our people.” Marcel has been created by the group’s Sapient division, and will connect 80,000 employees across 200 disciplines in 130 countries.

“Marcel draws on the predictive nature of AI to identify opportunities, anticipate clients’ needs, connect people, and unleash creativity while harnessing the power of the Groupe’s data spine to drive business solutions,” informs the statement from the company. The professional assistant platform has been named after Publicis’ founder Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, and will launch in June, 2018.

Post which, Publicis Groupe will resume its participation in industry events in September, 2018. Many people have called this news a publicity stunt, given the Groupe’s performance at recent award shows. Moreover, industry events while bringing laurels to the company also help in networking with clients, and attracting and retaining talent. Thus, the recent announcement from its CEO caused concern across the Groupe’s employees and creatives.

Laser marking replaces sticky labels at M&S: In a bid to be more sustainable and environment-friendly, retailers are finding innovative ways to stay true to the mission. The recent being laser-marked avocados. Marks & Spencer has started retailing the fruit laser-marked with the country of origin, M&S logo, best before date and a short code to help during the checkout. The UK retailer says that going forward, most of its fruits will be laser-marked, thus saving about 10 tonnes of paper and about five tonnes of glue every year. M&S also uses the same technology on coconuts.

The retailer had piloted a similar technique a few years ago with its citrus fruits with a different technology, but the laser penetrated too far into the soft, porous skin and made the fruit deteriorate faster. It was then discontinued. Meanwhile in January, 2017, Dutch fruit and vegetable supplier Nature & More and Swedish supermarket ICA ran a trial to replace sticky labels on organic avocados and sweet potatoes with a laser mark. While the reaction from consumers was worthy of concern at the trial run, their positive reaction later boosted the morale of retailers.

Called natural branding, the laser technology also produces less than 1% of carbon emissions compared to the sticker of a similar size. Once the avocados arrive from the source, they are ripened by the retailer. It is then placed into trays, which are then put on a conveyor belt through the lasering machine. The technology works by shining intense light onto the avocado’s skin, which retracts back and discolours only the very top layer; which means the fruit stays intact with no damages whatsoever. It took M&S over six months to perfect the laser process.

The laser-printed avocados are a part of M&S’s Plan A 2025 — an ambitious, customer-focussed sustainability plan, which apart from ensuring customer and colleague wellbeing, hopes to make all of its packaging ‘widely recyclable’. “Plan A 2025 will do even more with M&S aiming to make its entire business model zero waste — not just its own operations but also its supply chains and products,” says the statement from the company.

Gmail to stop scanning emails: 

Google will stop its controversial practice of scanning emails to serve personalised ads in Gmail. The move aims to create more positivity amongst its corporate customers, who are served with Google Cloud’s G Suite. “Google’s G Suite business is gaining enormous traction among enterprise users. Its usage has more than doubled in the past year among large business customers. Today, there are more than three million paying companies that use G Suite. G Suite’s Gmail is already not used as input for ads personalisation, and Google has decided to follow suit later this year in our free consumer Gmail service,” informed Diane Greene, SVP, Google Cloud, in her blogpost. Gmail currently serves over 1.2 billion users.

However, ads will still continue to appear inside the free version of Gmail as promoted messages. Earlier, Google used to scan email messages to create ads; but now, the targeted ads will use other personal information from sources such as search and YouTube. In the past, Google has attracted lawsuits against posting ads based on scanned email messages, even though it offered a good reach to its advertisers. It is surprising that the suggestion came from Google’s cloud unit, and not its ad team. It clearly shows that while ads contribute a major chunk to Google’s revenue, the company sees Google Cloud as a high-growth area.

“This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalise ads for other Google products. Ads shown are based on users’ settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalisation. Suite customers and free consumer Gmail users can remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount as we continue to innovate,” Greene further added. G Suite will continue to remain ad free.

Advertisers will still be able to position their ads, but instead of matching against email content, keywords and topics will be matched to relevant interests that Google identifies based on browsing history of the user. The impact on advertisers, thus, will remain minimal.

News Corp working on subscription mechanic with Facebook: Social media and digital platforms cannot be ignored by any publisher. While breaking the monopoly of tech giants like Google and Facebook might be difficult when it comes to creating money from subscriptions, publishers are increasingly finding ways to partner with digital platforms to generate money and attract readers. News Corp, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal and The Times, is currently in advanced discussion with Facebook for a subscription service.

Speaking at the London Tech Week in June, CEO of News Corp, Robert Thomson revealed, “We are involved in an advanced discussion with Facebook about the creation of a subscription mechanic that would benefit news organisations and journalists — perhaps generating enough revenue for the industry so that journalists do not become a modern mendicant order.”

Robert Thomson, CEO, News Corp.

The deal can help News Corp by making the readers pay for its content. The veteran journalist also accused Google of not allowing free movement of people since it uses and promotes the use of “digital walled gardens”. In a previous conference, Thomson had said that tech giants Google and Facebook manipulate the flow of information and create a “dysfunctional and socially destructive” environment for journalists and publishers in favour of their own financial advantage.

For the quarter ending March 31, 2017, News Corp cited strong digital gains helping drive the total revenues up by 5% y-o-y with its total revenue from “digital real estate” reaching $219 million. Post the results, Thomson had revealed that the company was in talks with Google and Facebook about brand enhancing environments, and he hoped that they will help in fashioning a healthier ecosystem that rewards creators of content.

Meanwhile, News Corp is also prepping to launch its own advertising network in 2017. It will act as a “one-stop-shop” for brands eager to extend their reach across News Corp titles.

The six-second ad story: Towards the end of 2016, Google introduced the six-second bumper ads on YouTube. Ensuring long impact in minimal time online, it promised to help brands in driving goals like ad recall and awareness in a cost-effective way. Tara Walpert Levy, VP — agency and media solutions, YouTube, said in the statement, “Since we piloted this format, we have seen on YouTube that six seconds is both long enough and short enough — it’s great for on-the-go users who appreciate the succinct message, for creatives who appreciate the constraint, and for brands who value the consistent results.”

In times when viewers prefer no ads or limited ads, the six-second theory is finding increasing acceptance from brands. The latest one to buy into the idea is L’Oréal. Even with promising advantages, is the duration promising enough to tell a powerful story or engage the audience? Brands have not yet matured from the 30 second spots and usually edit it for the digital medium, as and when required. L’Oréal and Google have thus launched Trend Hacker Boardroom.

This new initiative, being funded out of the brand’s experiential ad initiatives, will help them map the audience and put out the brand’s ads based on the data gathered. This will help the brand put out more relevant and shorter ads on YouTube, which will run prior to the content. Data, obviously, will play a major role in determining whether the brand will run its 10 second ads on TV as well. Even Fox Networks Group announced during the recently concluded 64th Cannes International Festival of Creativity that it will introduce unskippable six-second ads across its digital properties and on-demand ads.

The shorter format should be available for its digital content by October, 2017. Even as the six-second commercial is far from making a debut on TV screens, Fox has plans to bring the format to its linear channel as well. TV networks are reducing its commercial time as brands look for more interactive avenues to reach their TG. According to reports, FX has reduced its number of ads by almost 75%. Fox is currently working out the pricing of the shorter ad formats.

— Compiled by Ananya Saha

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