"Tough times can be a playground for creative solutions." One year after becoming the creative head of the entire Publicis Groupe in France, Marco Venturelli reflects on the current state of creativity.
Marco Venturelli was recently given a brief that could be either a dream or a nightmare for any creative: “Just make a great film.” If that wasn’t challenging enough, the brief came from his boss – Arthur Sadoun, the chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe.
As you may know, after a gruelling bout with cancer Sadoun has launched an initiative to banish the taboo surrounding the illness in the workplace and replace it with a more supportive approach. The film would sit at the heart of the #workingwithcancer campaign.
Marco recalls: “That’s all he said: ‘Make a great film – something powerful.’ He didn’t even want to see it until it was finished. But I understood why. This issue was so personal for him that he needed someone else in the kitchen, so to speak; someone who could approach it objectively.”
Needless to say, the film came out just fine, with a strong narrative arc and sterling performances from all the actors.
“It was a very emotionally intense project,” says Marco. “There are many aspects to this initiative, but the purpose of the film was to make it real for everyone. The data you’ve read is true – one in every two people will be confronted with this illness. So the film had to be universal. And I think that by the end of the two stories, anybody can identify with what they’ve seen.”
The young man in the film is a genuine cancer survivor – revisiting the hospital where he was treated added to the intensity of the experience. “I wanted the film to be positive, without sugar-coating the message. So the viewer sees the reality of treatment, the odyssey these patients go through, but at the end you also see the support of their colleagues in the workplace – which is a very important part of the recovery process.”
The spot made its US debut during the Super Bowl – a somewhat unexpected choice given that the event is often associated with humorous advertising. Says Marco: “If you want to have an impact on culture, you have to exist in culture. The Super Bowl is one of the most popular, universal places you can find in media. And because the overall tone of the Super Bowl is very different, we knew our message would stand out.”
Marco is celebrating his first anniversary as chief creative officer of Publicis Groupe in France (although he’s been president of Publicis Conseil since 2019). The role means that he oversees creativity across all the group’s agencies in France, including Marcel, Leo Burnett Paris, Saatchi & Saatchi, Prodigious, Razorfish, as well as creativity in other practices in the group such as Publicis Media, Epsilon and Publicis Sapient.
He’s delighted with the collaborative aspect of the job. “Publicis Groupe is a diverse and powerful collection of talents and resources, so what’s really interesting is to leverage the fact that we are a single team and work on integrated projects together.”
As an example he cites the “Plug Inn” campaign for Renault. The successor to the multi-awarded “Electric Village”, it’s an app that puts the drivers of electric vehicles in touch with nearby homeowners who have charging stations. “The creative idea came from Publicis Conseil and the app was developed by Publicis Sapient, which is something we could never do on our own. These are the projects that will interest me the most in the future – the ones touching several disciplines.”
Thanks to the evolution of the automotive industry, Marco continues to find his work for Renault fascinating. “Automotive advertising was a sleeping beauty for quite some time,” he says. “It used to be one of the most creative categories at Cannes, but then it became a little stale, because you were literally selling the same thing over and over. Now automotive is having a renaissance. Because of the shift to electric, the challenges are different – and the industry has positive things to say.”
Publicis Groupe is a diverse and powerful collection of talents and resources.
Having battled its way through a pandemic, the ad industry is now tackling a rocky economy. Inflation is high, budgets are being cut and consumers are nervous. How is that likely to impact creativity? Will we see a return to money-saving messages rather than more creative propositions?
“Of course the economy has an impact – on our clients and therefore on us,” Marco confirms. “But the cool thing is that the perimeter of everything we can do now is so broad that even if the brand’s problem is, let’s say, a perception that its prices are too high, that’s still something we can solve creatively.”
Plenty of award-winning campaigns, he points out, have been about promotions, discounts and value for money. He acknowledges that clients are likely to be less generous with their budgets, however: “But that forces us to put more creative solutions on the table. In these periods even the cost of media increases, so you also have to be more creative about how you use media. Sobriety may not sound much fun, but in fact it can become a playground for creative ideas.”
In short, he remains positive. “And with the Olympic Games here in France next year, there’s still plenty of room for optimism.”