Wednesday, January 31, 2024

16525: AI-Generated Redundancy, Ridiculousness, And Racism.


Oh look! MediaPost reported WPP is shifting from the digital age to the ‘AI Age’ via an investment of £250 million—roughly $317 million—to expand its AI capabilities in 2024. Like Publicis Groupe, the UK-based White holding company has branded its technological venture—WPP Open—as a proprietary and competitive advantage.


As routinely ranted, White holding companies have fueled the commoditization of services, being comprised of cookie-cutter White advertising agencies—as well as the commoditization of talent, whereby all employees are repetitive, redundant, and replaceable drones.


Now, even the cutting-edge technological advances are contrived, clich├ęd, copy-cat contraptions.


And don’t forget the forgettable fuckwads running the flaming dumpsters. How long before AI renders them irrelevant? Hell, were they ever not irrelevant?


For Adland, of course, AI means the expansion of Artificial Inclusivity.


WPP Briefs Investors On Its Plans For The ‘AI Age’


By Steve McClellan


WPP said today that its organic net revenue growth for full-year 2023 was about 0.9%, in line with earlier guidance, with an operating profit margin of 14.8%.


The figures—a sneak peak at fuller 2023 results to be released Feb. 22—were revealed during an investor conference the company held today in London to provide an update on company activities and future plans as the industry transitions from the digital age to the “AI Age” as CEO Mark Read described the shift.


Another headline number—the firm has earmarked 250 million GBP for 2024 for additional investments in data and technology to support the company’s ongoing AI strategy.


Like the other major holding companies, WPP has already invested hundreds of millions to scale AI throughout its organization. And it's working with all the key industry AI players like Nvidia, OpenAI, Microsoft and others.


Publicis Groupe last week said it was investing 300 million euros over three years on efforts to create a “CoreAI” layer that would support all activities at the company.


WPP has its own branded Al platform—WPP Open—which has been developed over the past two years, an effort led by Satalia, a UK AI company that WPP bought two years ago.


Like Publicis’ CoreAI, WPP Open is being developed as a central part of the holding company’s offering that agencies throughout the company will be connected to. And it is being designed to serve the needs of every major client at WPP. Currently a handful of clients are utilizing it including The Coca-Cola Company, Ford and L’Oreal. It’s credited as being the decisive factor in winning the Nestle media account last year. Some 28,000 users are currently utilizing the Open platform within the holding company.


Apart from AI, WPP has targeted efficiencies from ongoing streamlining programs that will produce structural and efficiency savings of around 300 million GBP over the next couple of years and accelerate the company’s organic growth. But that won’t happen overnight. The firm says that growth for 2024 will be in the range of flat to 1%. But in the next three to five years, Read said the firm is targeting 3%+ growth.


The company, Read asserted, is far less complex than it was in 2019. Since then, WPP has retired 300 brands, 1,400 legal entities and 840 office locations, consolidating much of the staff into new campuses around the world.


Now, 90% of the company’s business is generated by 6 brands including VML, GroupM, AKQA, Ogilvy, production network Hogarth, and PR giant Burson. “These brands are critical,” said Read. “We don’t need 500.”


After months of integration planning, the merger of VMLY&R and Wunderman Thompson took effect on January 1. In a joint presentation at the investor conference CEO Jon Cook and President Mel Edwards told attendees the combination would generate 50 million GPB in savings.


The main strategy behind the merger was to create a single brand with three core and integrated practices including brand experience, customer experience and commerce.


Christian Juhl, CEO of GroupM told attendees that half of the $900 billion in annual global media spending is digital and most of that is programmatic. He likened GroupM’s task in that regard to high-frequency trading in the financial markets. Google and Meta, he added, control about 47% of the digital pie. “We have to be masters in those universes,” he said.


Juhl touched on simplification efforts at GroupM, noting that from an investment and activation standpoint GroupM acts as “one company, one culture and one operating system…We go to market the same way for all of our clients,” utilizing the same platforms.


The different brands, he added, drive growth by managing clients and conflicts.


Juhl added that GroupM is focused on improving U.S. growth performance. He noted “refreshed” leadership with the recent appointment of Sharb Farjami as North America CEO.


U.S. growth in 2023 was 3%, Juhl disclosed, noting that the region suffered some account losses. “It’s not a capability gap,” he said. Rather, the firm failed to communicate its story as effectively as it could have.


During the Q&A portion of the event, Read was asked how clients would share in the efficiencies brought by AI. He responded by noting with scaled AI-driven production the company could produce “a thousand more assets at a thousandth of the cost” for a client. Some of that value would be shared with clients while “we keep some for ourselves.”


He was also pressed to elaborate on the firm’s goal of “3%+” growth in the years ahead. The short answer, he replied, is that the company is committing to a minimum of 3% growth in the medium term. “We see a good opportunity ahead of us,” he added. “Maybe its 5%. Or more.”

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

16524: C-Suite Shuffle The Martin Agency.


MediaPost reported The Martin Agency promoted CCO Danny Robinson to CEO, succeeding Kristen Cavallo, who will now focus on her role of MullenLowe Global CEO. So, who’s gonna take the CCO role—Joe Alexander?


Robinson Promoted To CEO At The Martin Agency


By Steve McClellan


Danny Robinson has been named CEO of The Martin Agency, succeeding Kristen Cavallo, who has led the IPG-owned agency for the past six years and was named global CEO of sister agency MullenLowe Group 14 months ago.


An industry veteran, Robinson has been with The Martin Agency for nearly two decades, serving most recently as its chief creative officer.


Robinson has overseen some of Martin’s most recognizable recent work, including the UPS brand transformation (UPS x Awake Bodega at NYFW), TIAA’s The Dre$$, and, most recently, the viral campaign from Solo Stove that featured Snoop Dogg.


Prior to joining The Martin Agency in 2004, Robinson was co-founder of Vigilante, the creative shop behind the groundbreaking Oprah Winfrey Pontiac giveaway on Sept. 14, 2004, when the talk show host gave every member of the studio audience that day a new Pontiac G-6 sedan. 

16523: PR From White PR Firms And White Holding Company Rife With White Lies.


MediaPost reported WPP continues to assimilate its White communications companies and simplify corporate mastheads.


Burson Cohn & Wolfe—formed via the 2018 blending of White PR firms Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe—has been merged with White PR firm Hill & Knowlton to create Burson.


Gee, it must have been tough to decide who would issue the press release.


“Hill & Knowlton and BCW are two high-performing businesses with complementary strengths, shared ambitions, and many shared clients...” gushed WPP CEO Mark Read. “The new agency will be the standard bearer as the most modern, strategic, technology-driven, full-service communications offer in the industry.”


Yeah, and employees at the merging enterprises are about to learn how “complementary strengths” really translates to redundancy weaknesses.


As for the new White outhouse becoming “the standard bearer” in the industry, well, it’s not so impressive given the status is being achieved through process of elimination.


WPP Merging Global PR Networks, Hill & Knowlton And BCW


By Steve McClellan


WPP is merging its two largest communications agencies, Hill & Knowlton and BCW, to form Burson, effective July 1. The company said the merged agency will be focused on building and protecting reputation and will support a client roster that includes more than half of the Fortune 100 across corporate and public affairs, healthcare, technology and brand marketing.


Corey duBrowa, currently global CEO of BCW, has been named global CEO of Burson and AnnaMaria DeSalva, currently global chairman and CEO of Hill & Knowlton, has been named global chairman of Burson. Together, they will oversee agency strategy, client service, employee experience and culture.


Burson will have more than 6,000 employees in 43 markets worldwide. Its name honors the late Harold Burson, a pioneer and founding figure of modern public relations and strategic communications.


Burson’s leadership team will comprise a group of senior executives from both companies with appointments will be announced throughout 2024 as the integration progresses.


Hill & Knowlton will operate within Burson serving a select group of clients globally through strategic communications, advisory and public affairs services.


GCI Health and AxiCom will continue to operate as brands within Burson, offering specialized healthcare and technology communications expertise, respectively, at scale.


Mark Read, CEO of WPP, said: “Hill & Knowlton and BCW are two high-performing businesses with complementary strengths, shared ambitions and many shared clients... The new agency will be the standard bearer as the most modern, strategic, technology-driven, full-service communications offer in the industry.”


Monday, January 29, 2024

16522: AI & A-Holes At Publicis Groupe.


MediaPost reported that Publicis Groupe will invest 300 million euros—roughly $327 million—on AI. The grand scheme was unveiled in an hour-long video starring Publicis Groupe Chairman and CEO Arthur Sadoun and a handful of company executives. Um, it might have been more efficient and effective—as well as entertaining—if the presentation had been generated via AI.


Of course, the White holding company has already branded its AI practice—CoreAI—as a proprietary and competitive advantage.


While the dog-and-pony show did briefly touch on AI-related issues like eliminating jobs and inherent bias, there was no discussion on how the progressive tool might impact DEIBA+ initiatives. To emphasize the point, here’s an updated Publicis Groupe accounting report:


$3.7 billion in cash to purchase Sapient in 2014


$30 million to produce Marcel


$100 million for a cancer contest


$327 million for CoreAI


$50 million sprinkled over three years for performative PR and heat shields to address systemic racism


Do the math. The latest Publicis Groupe undertaking underscores the industry obsession with AI—which translates in Adland to Artificial Inclusivity.


Publicis Goes All In On AI


By Steve McClellan


Fresh off a robust growth year in 2023, Publicis Groupe announced today that it is spending 300 million euros (about $327 million at today’s exchange rate) over the next three years to fully transform from a platform company to what it calls an “intelligent system company” with a proprietary “CoreAI” backbone integrated throughout all operations at the company.


The big bet on AI follows growth for full-year 2023 that exceeded expectations — the company confirmed that its organic net revenue growth for the year reached 6.3%. That’s higher than the 5.5% to 6% growth the company guided to in October, which was one of several growth upgrades it made throughout the year. While the other holding groups haven’t released full-year growth figures, Publicis is all but certain to be the leader, in most cases by a wide margin. Full 2023 results will be issued Feb. 8. Investors pushed the stock up nearly 4% on the news to a record 92.10 euro on the Paris Exchange Thursday.


Along with the announcement, the company released an hour-long video presentation designed to explain how AI will be utilized throughout the company. Presenters include CEO Arthur Sadoun, Chief Strategy Officer Carlo Serrano, Nigel Vaz, CEO, Publicis Sapient, Dave Penski CEO Publicis Media and Sam Levine Archer, Chief Solutions Architect Publicis North America.


In the presentation, Sadoun kicks things off explaining how the firm has evolved over the past six years from a traditional ad marketing holding company to a “platform company.” As he explains, the firm made three big bets that put data and technology front and center at the company.


Two of those bets were the acquisitions of data giant Epsilon and digital transformation firm Sapient. The third bet was moving to a country business model, signaling a shift to both a single P&L and operational backbone.


Publicis Sapient is leading the effort to develop the layer of AI that is being infused throughout the organization. For two years now it has been quietly using an internal platform to test accelerated AI applications. It is working with outside firms like Nvidia, Google, OpenAI and others.


The Groupe began engineering CoreAI in the second half of 2023 and plans to begin rolling out capabilities in the first half of this year, presenting internal test results at the Viva Tech conference in Paris in May. Scott Hagedorn, Global Chief Solutions Architect said the company is currently focused on developing “end to end use cases” for the pharmaceutical, CPG and Automotive categories to present at that conference.


One of the main objectives behind the shift to an “intelligent systems company” Sadoun explains is to “connect the knowledge of the enterprise to the individual [employee] and to operate at the speed of AI.” Put another way, the company explains, “everyone within Publicis will become a data analyst, an engineer, an intelligence partner,” or at least be able to access the data within the organization enabling them to function in each of those roles. As the executives noted numerous times during the presentation, a myriad of tasks that now take weeks or months will take just minutes or seconds when CoreAI is rolled out.


And some manual and repetitive tasks will likely go away altogether. Hagedorn stressed that “upskilling” talent is a priority, if not a must, during the three-year transition from platform to intelligent system.


In fact, half of the 100-million-euro investment earmarked for 2024 is dedicated to staff issues, including upskilling and other types of training as well as recruitment. The other half will be invested in technology including licenses, IT software and cloud infrastructure.


CoreAI will unify all of the company’s data including 2.3 billion people profiles from around the world and trillions of additional data points across content, media and business performance and transformation and internal communications system Marcel.


The presentation highlights five areas that will be transformed by CoreAI including media, creative/production, insight, software and operations.


One of the examples cited during the presentation was the company’s own effort to generate 100,000 personalized New Year greetings earlier this month, one for each employee at the firm.


Serrano noted that personalization at scale has become critical in the CPG space given the acceleration of shifting consumer preferences. The solution, she said is creating “target audiences of individuals.” AI will do the heavy lifting on personalization targeting, “reducing days of work to seconds.”


Penski noted similar benefits in media planning and buying, asserting that AI can get clients in markets where they need to be much faster and reducing “weeks of planning into minutes.”


Hagedorn notes that media teams can spend three to six weeks building visualization models and dashboards for media plans only to have the client say they want another view. With CoreAI, he added the fix would take about 10 seconds.


As for the financial impact of the AI investments, the 100 million euro allocated for 2024 will be funded by “internal efficiencies,” Sadoun said, with no dilutive impact on operating margin. The 2025 investment will generate some incremental growth.


View the full AI presentation here.  

16521: Giving New Wings To Popeyes Promotion…?


Super Bowl LVIII will present the Kansas City Chiefs versus the San Francisco 49ers. So, Popeyes has a unique opportunity to make good on its Wings For Wings promotion, despite the concession posted at the fast feeder’s website (depicted above).


To recap, the Louisiana Kitchen offered free chicken wings if the Super Bowl winner has wings—initially defined as having a name or logo with wings (e.g., Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, etc.).


While the 49ers do not meet the criteria, it could be argued that the Chiefs qualify.


From 1963 to 1972, the team logo (depicted below) featured a running, tomahawk-wielding Native American in cartoon chief headdress made of bird feathers. 


Additionally, current team mascot KC Wolf first appeared in 1989 as successor to Warpaint, a horse originally ridden by a man donning a full chief headdress, replete with feathers (depicted below).


In short, a Chiefs victory would allow Popeyes to complete the free wings giveaway.


Granted, the Kansas City Chiefs organization would likely distance itself from such politically incorrect publicity. But Popeyes and its White advertising agency are seemingly not above displaying cultural cluelessness.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

16520: Popeyes Super Bowl Wings Promotion Gets Clipped.


With the defeats of the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens, the Popeyes promotion promising free wings if the Super Bowl LVIII Vince Lombardi Trophy goes to a team with wings has been grounded.


Was the Louisiana Kitchen affected by Offensive Karma? After all, Popeyes did dump a minority-owned advertising agency in favor of a White advertising agency—and dismissed Annie the Chicken Queen too.

16519: GUT Goes From Chicken Killers To Chicken Defenders.

Plant-based food company NotCo is behind the “Not So Happy Animals” campaign—mostly knocking fast-food restaurants—which was produced by GUT Mexico City. In 2023, GUT Miami lost AOR duties for Popeyes. Guess the advertising agency was not so happy to be forced to adopt a meat-free diet…?


Saturday, January 27, 2024

16518: Displaying Respect—By Regulation—For Native American Culture.


The New York Times reported major US museums—including the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University—are removing and/or rethinking displays of Native American artifacts and objects.


The museums are responding to updated federal regulations that require obtaining tribal consent before exhibiting or conducting research on cultural items. The updated policies went into effect this month.


How convenient for the museums that the measures became official well after National Native American Heritage Month and Indigenous Peoples’ Day.


Leading Museums Remove Native Displays Amid New Federal Rules


The American Museum of Natural History is closing two major halls as museums around the nation respond to updated policies from the Biden administration.


By Julia Jacobs and Zachary Small


The American Museum of Natural History will close two major halls exhibiting Native American objects, its leaders said on Friday, in a dramatic response to new federal regulations that require museums to obtain consent from tribes before displaying or performing research on cultural items.


“The halls we are closing are artifacts of an era when museums such as ours did not respect the values, perspectives and indeed shared humanity of Indigenous peoples,” Sean Decatur, the museum’s president, wrote in a letter to the museum’s staff on Friday morning. “Actions that may feel sudden to some may seem long overdue to others.”


The museum is closing galleries dedicated to the Eastern Woodlands and the Great Plains this weekend, and covering a number of other display cases featuring Native American cultural items as it goes through its enormous collection to make sure it is in compliance with the new federal rules, which took effect this month.


Museums around the country have been covering up displays as curators scramble to determine whether they can be shown under the new regulations. The Field Museum in Chicago covered some display cases, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University said it would remove all funerary belongings from exhibition and the Cleveland Museum of Art has covered up some cases.


But the action by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, which draws 4.5 million visitors a year, making it one of the most visited museums in the world, sends a powerful message to the field. The museum’s anthropology department is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the United States, known for doing pioneering work under a long line of curators including Franz Boas and Margaret Mead. The closures will leave nearly 10,000 square feet of exhibition space off-limits to visitors; the museum said it could not provide an exact timeline for when the reconsidered exhibits would reopen.


“Some objects may never come back on display as a result of the consultation process,” Decatur said in an interview. “But we are looking to create smaller-scale programs throughout the museum that can explain what kind of process is underway.”


The changes are the result of a concerted effort by the Biden administration to speed up the repatriation of Native American remains, funerary objects and other sacred items. The process started in 1990 with the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA, which established protocols for museums and other institutions to return human remains, funerary objects and other holdings to tribes. But as those efforts have dragged on for decades, the law was criticized by tribal representatives as being too slow and too susceptible to institutional resistance.


This month, new federal regulations went into effect that were designed to hasten returns, giving institutions five years to prepare all human remains and related funerary objects for repatriation and giving more authority to tribes throughout the process.


“We’re finally being heard — and it’s not a fight, it’s a conversation,” said Myra Masiel-Zamora, an archaeologist and curator with the Pechanga Band of Indians.


Even in the two weeks since the new regulations took effect, she said, she has felt the tenor of talks shift. In the past, institutions often viewed Native oral histories as less persuasive than academic studies when determining which modern-day tribes to repatriate objects to, she said. But the new regulations require institutions to “defer to the Native American traditional knowledge of lineal descendants, Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations.”


“We can say, ‘This needs to come home,’ and I’m hoping there will not be pushback,” Masiel-Zamora said.


Museum leaders have been preparing for the new regulations for months, consulting lawyers and curators and holding lengthy meetings to discuss what might need to be covered up or removed. Many institutions are planning to hire staff to comply with the new rules, which can involve extensive consultations with tribal representatives.


The result has been a major shift in practices when it comes to Native American exhibitions at some of the country’s leading museums — one that will be noticeable to visitors.


At the American Museum of Natural History, segments of the collection once used to teach students about the Iroquois, Mohegans, Cheyenne, Arapaho and other groups will be temporarily inaccessible. That includes large objects, like the birchbark canoe of Menominee origin in the Hall of Eastern Woodlands, and smaller ones, including darts that date as far back as 10,000 B.C. and a Hopi Katsina doll from what is now Arizona. Field trips for students to the Hall of Eastern Woodlands are being rethought now that they will not have access to those galleries.


“What might seem out of alignment for some people is because of a notion that museums affix in amber descriptions of the world,” Decatur said. “But museums are at their best when they reflect changing ideas.”Exhibiting Native American human remains is generally prohibited at museums, so the collections being reassessed include sacred objects, burial belongings and other items of cultural patrimony. As the new regulations have been discussed and debated over the past year or so, some professional organizations, such as the Society for American Archaeology, have expressed concern that the rules were reaching too far into museums’ collection management practices. But since the regulations went into effect on Jan. 12, there has been little public pushback from museums.


Much of the holdings of human remains and Native cultural items were collected through practices that are now considered antiquated and even odious, including through donations by grave robbers and archaeological digs that cleared out Indigenous burial grounds.


“This is human rights work, and we need to think about it as that and not as science,” said Candace Sall, the director of the museum of anthropology at the University of Missouri, which is still working to repatriate the remains of more than 2,400 Native American individuals. Sall said she added five staff members to work on repatriation in anticipation of the regulations and hopes to add more.


Criticism of the pace of repatriation had put institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History under public pressure. In more than 30 years, the museum has repatriated the remains of approximately 1,000 individuals to tribal groups; it still holds the remains of about 2,200 Native Americans and thousands of funerary objects. (Last year, the museum said it would overhaul practices that extended to its larger collection of some 12,000 skeletons by removing human bones from public display and improving the storage facilities where they are kept.)


A top priority of the new regulations, which are administered by the Interior Department, is to finish the work of repatriating the Native human remains in institutional holdings, which amount to more than 96,000 individuals, according to federal data published in the fall.


The government has given institutions a deadline, giving them until 2029 to prepare human remains and their burial belongings for repatriation.


In many cases, human remains and cultural objects have little information attached to them, which has slowed repatriation in the past, especially for institutions that have sought exacting anthropological and ethnographic evidence of links to a modern Native group.


Now the government is urging institutions to push forward with the information they have, in some cases relying solely on geographical information — such as what county the remains were discovered in.


There have been concerns among some tribal officials that the new rules will result in a deluge of requests from museums that may be beyond their capacities and could create a financial burden.


Speaking in June to a committee that reviews the implementation of the law, Scott Willard, who works on repatriation issues for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, expressed concern that the rhetoric regarding the new regulations sometimes made it sound as if Native ancestors were “throwaway items.”


“This garage sale mentality of ‘give it all away right now’ is very offensive to us,” Willard said.


The officials who drew up the new regulations have said that institutions can get extensions to their deadlines as long as the tribes that they are consulting with agree, emphasizing the need to hold institutions accountable without overburdening tribes. If museums are found to have violated the regulations, they could be subject to fines.


Bryan Newland, the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs and a former tribal president of the Bay Mills Indian Community, said the rules were drawn up in consultation with tribal representatives, who wanted their ancestors to recover dignity in death.


“Repatriation isn’t just a rule on paper,” Newland said, “but it brings real meaningful healing and closure to people.”