ANCHOR Tania Bryer, CNBC
In the marketing world, it’s often said that ‘content is key.’ -
That’s why I’ve come to this venue in East London to see what Publicis Sapient is up to.
Hello and welcome to Marketing.Media.Money, I’m Tania Bryer and I’m at an evening event organized by the digital consulting firm, Publicis Sapient. It’s being held at a historic venue in East London. An invited crowd from wide-ranging industries come together for drinks, nibbles and of course, networking. There’s a lot to see and do. There’s a special display featuring stories from employees that show the impact that technology had on their lives. There’s also a 360 cam for the perfect shot, and there’s even an in-house muralist. We’ll be speaking with the artist later in the show.
But the main event of the evening is the screening of a new film by Oscar-winning director, Ben Proudfoot.
“A mother’s job is never done. We give our last even though it is our last. Everything was going stable and then the pandemic hit.”
Never Done is the first of three films in a series funded by Publicis Sapient. They are being made in partnership with Ben Proudfoot and his company, Breakwater Studios. Unusually, there is no branding in the films, instead they are designed to showcase the positive way in which digitalization can change someone’s life.
The internet is a beautiful thing.
That theme runs throughout this evening’s event. Those employee stories I mentioned?
They describe ways in which their lives have been transformed by technology. It’s clearly an important theme. I sat down with the CEO of Publicis Sapient, Nigel Vaz. Nigel, it's great to see you. Thank you so much for joining me on Marketing.Media.Money.
PUBLICIS SAPIENT CEO Nigel Vaz
Thank you for having me.
Publicis Sapient describes itself as a digital business transformation partner. Tell me what that means and what you do?
Very simply, digital business transformation is the reimagination of business for a world that is increasingly digital. Many of our clients have built successful businesses and industries from, banking, to airlines to hotels, and in every one of these industries, the impact of changing consumer behavior, technological change, means these businesses need to be reimagined for a world that we live in today.
So, for our clients, we're constantly helping them stay on top of consumer trends, changing technology trends in order to transform themselves. And that means helping build platform-based business models for a firm that might actually be a hotel company, in order to tap the market and compete with an Airbnb. It might be helping a large media company compete with a Netflix. It might be actually thinking about the end-to-end travel experience in the context of an airline, or asking obvious questions like why do you have to go into a bank to open a bank account? Or why do you need a piece of plastic to get money out of an ATM machine?
Well, the company is part of the Publicis Groupe family. What is the ecosystem like? How do you fit into it?
From a Publicis Groupe perspective, Publicis Groupe has been in the communications space in advertising and marketing for nearly 100 years. And its whole model has been about how brands and consumers connect.
Now, Publicis Sapient, as a company has always been focused on the kind of impact we're creating for consumers in the digital space. So, if you think about brands, building relationships with consumers today, on one dimension focused on marketing and communications, Publicis Sapient helps bring that brand promise to life through everything we do.
So, our focus is ultimately on the impact to the consumer.
Take a simple example, like McDonald's. From Publicis Groupe’s perspective, there’s the advertising and marketing for McDonald's, but on the other side, how do you actually place an order? How do you make sure that your order’s getting processed? How do you get people to food faster in the context of a drive thru, but also get food to people faster with the integration that McDonald's did with UberEATS.
So now Publicis Groupe can play across the spectrum from advertising and marketing, all the way through to how Publicis Sapient helps deliver on the brand promise to consumers and businesses.
Nigel, you've been with the company for over 20 years now.
So how has it changed?
Well, if you think about Publicis Sapient, Sapient was a company that was founded in Cambridge in Massachusetts, with the primary purpose of how businesses back then were going to leverage the Internet. We were helping launch some of the world's first online banks and the world's first online retail businesses.
And fast forward to today, we're helping build digital cities, we're helping transform new ways in which banks create value for customers. We're focused on creating virtual experiences that allow much more immersive delivery of healthcare. We're using technology to create better choices for companies in the context of carbon emissions.
All of these, to me ultimately come back to those same ideas that we've always had, which is the purpose of the company has always been about how people can thrive in the next and how that translates to us delivering really impactful solutions to them through everything we do.
What kind of spending allocation are you seeing from companies towards digital strategies?
You asked me about my journey with the firm back in the day. We'd say a CEO might have digital as one of the top 10 priorities. If you're a retailer, they would talk about e commerce sales. Today, it's just sales. So today, it doesn't matter whether you're focused on sustainability, it doesn't matter if you're focused on other ESG priorities. If you're trying to drive cost out of your business, trying to be more efficient or find growth, every one of those has a huge digital component, which effectively means digital business transformation, in the truest sense, is almost the number one or number two priority for every CEO I talk to, across industries, because whatever their strategic priority, the avenue to get at that is reimagining the business in a digital context.
Coming up, I speak with Oscar winning director, Ben Proudfoot.
ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING DIRECTOR
The subject was something we mutually agreed on. But I need autonomy. It was a huge leap of faith that I was requesting of them.
Plus, we hear from Publicis Sapient’s CMO, Teresa Barreira.
Stay with us on Marketing.Media.Money.
END OF PART 1
START OF PART 2
Welcome back to Marketing.Media.Money and our look at how brands make content. In this case, it’s a series of documentary films by Oscar-winning director Ben Proudfoot. Publicis Sapient might have commissioned the content, but Ben insists he wouldn’t have taken the job if they had any influence.
ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING DIRECTOR
This is an important point for me as a documentary filmmaker. Because, like a journalist, you need your independence. It's our reputation to be objective storytellers.
So, obviously, the subject was something we mutually agreed on. But I said, I need autonomy, basically, between-, between going and making the film and we can't have anybody on set, and we need to edit the films ourselves. So, it was a huge leap of faith that I was requesting of them and if we didn't have that relationship, we wouldn't have done it.
But I think that's why the film comes across so well, it's because we made it as filmmakers and not as an advertisement, which is why I think it's so powerful.
My Dad taught me, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ and I’m going to find it.
Ben’s documentary tells the story of Kersten, a single mother from Charlotte, North Carolina, who was diagnosed with a lung disease. She was saved from homelessness by a digital platform that Publicis Sapient built for its client, rental assistance agency, DreamKey Partners.
The minute I started talking to her on the phone, she's obviously a great storyteller.
And she had me laughing, which is important, I think in a story that can be kind of heavy. And that really jumped out to me to begin with. But the other big thing was that it was literally one day, between her being evicted and staying in her home with her children.
And so when we were looking at the larger question of did this process turning digital actually make a difference for anyone, you can see that in her case, literally, it was one day. If the process was any less efficient, her family would be homeless.
At the screening in East London, the film was a hit.
GLOBAL CHIEF ARTCHITECT, STATE STREET
The film was absolutely amazing because it was the story of hope. All of us, we get lost in the lines of code that we write and the work that we do, but when we get a rare glimpse into the impact that it creates, it was very, very powerful.
Really impactful. I've been working in digital for over 30 years and we don't really understand the impact it's having on people. So, I’ve got a nice, warm feeling in my heart, when I see stuff like this, that the work we're doing is changing people's lives.
COO, W.A.G PAYMENT SOLUTIONS
Powerful storytelling. Storytelling at its best. I thought it was very inspiring. It took what is often very complex concepts, and simplified it with that end impact.
CHIEF RESAERCH OFFICER, HFS RESEARCH
It did an effective job of showing this mysterious thing called digital transformation.
I appreciate that it wasn't a pandering piece that had the Sapient logo everywhere.
So, it was a light touch.
To find out why the film was greenlit from a corporate point of view, I spoke to the CMO of Publicis Sapient, Teresa Barreira. Teresa, thank you so much for joining me today.
EVP, GLOBAL CHIEF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, PUBLICIS SAPIENT
Thank you for having me here.
Why is it so important, do you think, to tell the story?
One of the reasons I wanted to do this, I wanted to show the humanity in technology, in digital transformation, and I also wanted to show the meaning of our work.
I wanted to show that technology is a force for good, and technology is the enabler, not the enemy and that digital business transformation is not just about big business helping big business, but ultimately it is in the service of people.
And finally, the other reason, I wanted to show that we live in a digital world.
The genie is out of the bottle. I wanted to inspire people, that the more digital we become, the more human we have to be.
Well, the films are being made in partnership with the Oscar-winning director, Ben Proudfoot. How did that collaboration come about?
Very unconventionally, the way we went about this.
But it all started about a year ago. I was in my city garden, talking to my head of content, and I was pacing back and forth. And we were brainstorming ways, how to show the meaning in the work, how to make it real, how to make it relatable, and easy to understand.
But I didn't want to talk about the work, because, frankly, that is the easy part. I wanted to talk about the impact of the work and not the impact on business, but the impact on people, ordinary people. Now that's the hard part.
So, in that moment, as we’re brainstorming, we decided we're going to tell stories about people, real people. And we reached out to Ben. And the reason I say it's very unconventional, because there was no brief, no agency, no back and forth and no reviews. Literally, from the moment that we reached out to Ben, from the time we started in pre-production, it took us literally five days.
How does it fit with Publicis Sapient’s wider marketing strategy?
I can answer in two parts, how it fits with the company and how it fits with the strategy because one aligns with the other.
So, it fits the company in two ways: one, it really embodies our way of working.
As a company, we always look at transformation from the eyes of the customer. We want to look at transformation as centered on the individual. So, our approach to transformation has always been from the outside in, versus the inside out. And because of that, it allows us not just to focus on the impact and the outcome on businesses, but the impact on people.
The second thing, why it fits in with our business is because it actualizes our purpose. As a company, our purpose is to help people, not businesses, organizations or governments, but people to thrive in their brave pursuit of next. What this film does, it shows that we are living our purpose, not through CSR or a 30 second commercial, but through our work, which is the beautiful thing.
The second is how to fits into our marketing strategy. When we relaunched our brand, about four years ago, I wanted to create a brand that was purpose driven.
And I think the film does that. But I think most importantly, also, what the film does, it helps elevate our brand, but in a way that’s not forceful. It helps elevate our brand by pulling the audience into the brand versus pushing the brand into the audience. And I think what it has allowed us to do, this film, is to think of our brand strategy as influencing. The brand being an influencer versus the brand being forceful.
As a marketing strategy, though, some might think it's unusual, because the films, they're not branded.
Yes. And a lot of people don't ask the question. Not branding the film was very intentional.
Because I wanted the story to be about the journey of the person. I wanted it to be authentic.
I didn't want to talk about our work. We already had a case study that talked about how 40,000 people have benefited from the digitization of the systems. How 40,000 people were able to receive their financial assistance in days versus months.
And, frankly, it's a very impressive number, but it's a number it's not a story.
And, and that's what I didn’t want it to do. Anyone can create a film. Anyone can hire Ben.
And many have, and I think after this, others will, too. But this for us, is just not a story.
This is who we are, this is how we show up. This is again, how we live our purpose.
In the film, Kersten is helped by a company that is a Publicis Sapient client, DreamKey Partners. Was that a consideration for the story?
Absolutely. We obviously wanted to show the meaning of the work, so it had to be our client. Basically I said to Ben, here's a client that we have done fantastic work for, because we had a case study. And we knew that we had impacted 40,000 people. But I asked him to go find the story, go find the person. And that's what he did. And that's what's different. I think that's the unique part here. He went on that journey, to find the truth, to find the story. And to do that, for me, it required a lot of trust. There were a lot of elements of trust: trust between Ben and I, trust between Kersten, the protagonist, and Ben and us, and trust between me and the company. I had to trust Ben. And to do that, I had to relinquish a lot of control. I had to let Ben do what he does best. For me, I had to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, comfortable with uncertainty, ambiguity, and really embrace change.
Ben Proudfoot isn’t the only creator Publicis Sapient is working with. After the break, I interrupt the artist NicMac – stay tuned.
END OF PART 2
START OF PART 3
Welcome back to the show, I’m Tania Bryer and I’ve come to an event in East London organized by the digital consulting firm, Publicis Sapient. To enhance the evening and create a piece of art that it can keep, the company commissioned the artist Nic Mac to paint it in person. I interrupted her work for a quick chat.
Nic, thank you so much for showing me your mural. How long have you been working on this for now?
So, so far it's been 17 hours, which is longer than I want it to be but the time passes quite quickly when you're doing it. So the hours have flown by.
And what happened? Publicis Sapient came to you and commissioned this, but how did it come about?
They wanted to have something visual that represented what they do and who Publicis Sapient are. And when they were telling me about who they are, and what Publics Sapient do, the general theme was that they kind of do everything and something that was mentioned was they have a thread in everything in the world as it has to do with technology and how people are at the center of it. So that's why I've made it focus on people, but also adding an abstract fun element to it with their logo in the middle.
And you've got a bit more to do with it, you were saying a few more hours on it?
Yes, I have six hours left, so I'm going to go crazy and get the painting ready for the event today.
And what happens after where does it go afterwards?
So they're going to have this in their new office. And I've color matched the colors to the office interiors that they're going to have there. But we're also going to do a digital version and play around with the color. And they're going to use it for other things, which is really exciting to take a painting and make it digital as well. So that's cool. We're quite excited about that.
And what would you call this do you think Nic?
I don't know what I'm going to call this piece yet but maybe “Ripple Effect.” Maybe I'll call it “Ripple Effect.”
Well, this is an exciting day for Publicis Sapient, because of course, you're showing the film and you have other events here. What does it take to put on something like this?
I think, today will be the 25th screening, globally, we've done. So we’re really excited to end the journey of the road show here in London with a big bang. When I started this journey, it was to show the impact that we’re making in people's lives, to show the good in technology. But the biggest surprise has actually been our employees how they embraced this. What this film has created, that I could never imagine is giving people a platform. When we do the screenings, we have a conversation about impact, the impact they are making, their personal impact and the impact from their jobs. And its been such an amazing thing to see how people have come together. The film has united us. The film has given people pride. They show that what they are doing is really having an effect on people's lives. And that, to me, to be honest, has been the most beautiful thing.
How has technology impacted your own life?
I grew up in a small village, in the northern part of Portugal, a town of 1,000 people. Most people live from the land. My parents were small business owners, they owned a restaurant, a café, a grocery store. And by the time I was six years old, I started working in their business. I didn't have technology then, not even a cash register. I learned how to do mental math. But I emigrated to the United States, and I went to university and business school. If I think about it, I didn't grow up with technology, but technology really has in some way shaped me to where I am today. It has allowed me to do what I do. My first job out of business school was with IBM and that's when I started getting really introduced to technology and to start to see the benefit of technology. And obviously, today, I don't think I could work or live without technology.
Teresa, thank you so much for joining me on Marketing.Media.Money today.
Thank you. It was a pleasure.
You have your own story of impact. Nigel. I believe you've talked about being diagnosed at an early age with dyspraxia and then saying that you've described technology as giving you superpowers.
As a kid, I had a really hard time with fine motor skills. Dyspraxia is the inability to move things, to create, which, as a kid, it means an inability to hold a pen or a pencil. I still have terrible handwriting. But technology and computers allowed me to go from a kid who was perhaps starting to get bucketed in the realms of ‘not being so bright,’ which was common when I was growing up, because I couldn't express myself in written form, to all of a sudden being able to expand my horizons and contribute very differently.
I was surrounded at the time by comic book heroes like Batman and Iron Man and Captain America, and all of them were regular people, but who were augmented by technology. So, it really cemented in my head, that technology could be a force for good, which is also why I was saying, it's slightly disheartening sometimes when so much of the conversation in the media around tech firms gets boxed in one area of what technology does, which is social media. It's just a very narrow spectrum.
But today, technology is changing how we go to space, it's changing how we discover new drugs, it's changing how people receive life-saving healthcare, it's changing genetic discoveries, and space exploration and undersea exploration. And so much of that is not talked about as the impact that technology has had. So, for me, on a very personal level, I do believe in Publicis Sapient, we're trying to create a company that is very focused on how we can be a force for good in the world, leveraging those SPEED capabilities I talked about.
Nigel, thank you so much for talking to me today.
Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it, Tania.
Sadly, that’s all we have time for for this episode of Marketing.Media.Money. For more, go to our website, CNBC-dot-com. I’m Tania Bryer, thank you so much for watching.
END OF SHOW