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From right to left: Jessica Berger, VP of innovation; Chris Outram, Head of Blockchain; Katie Hudson, managing director of futurescapes; Jeremy Cohen, head of Web3 Investment
Publicis Groupe is continuing to bolster its Web3 expertise with four executives now focused on areas such as Web3 investment and blockchain. 
Jessica Berger, who previously served as a director of digital at Weber Shandwick, is taking on the role of VP of innovation. Jeremy Cohen, who was head of global content partnerships for Publicis, takes on the role of head of Web3 investment. Additionally, Katie Hudson, previously VP, global client solutions, Kinesso, was named managing director of futurescapes, and Chris Outram, who was most recently VP of infrastructure at the adMarketplace, joins as head of blockchain.
They are joining a fairly new team under Publicis Media called Publicis Media Content and Innovation (PMC&I), which was launched eight months ago. Currently, the PMC&I team is made up of nearly 1,000 people globally who provide Web3 expertise in both blockchain use-cases (NFTs, smart contracts and decentralized applications), and metaverse technologies such as VR/AR and artificial intelligence, according to a spokeswoman for Publics Media.
“What we were trying to do on the one hand was not duplicative of the services that a Razorfish or a [Publicis] Sapient or anybody offers, but instead create something where they could all tap into it to make what they were doing better and stronger,” said Eric Levin, Publicis Media’s chief content and innovation officer, who leads the team. “We’ve spent the better part of two years building the foundational elements so that now as people come in and go, ‘I need to lease land or I need to mint NFTs,’ we have all of those resources, and then that also now includes really incredible talent on the production and development side, prototyping in these new environments. So if a client comes in with any version of what it is that they want to build, we’re actually able to build and help guide them strategically to do so.”
While the team also focuses on other aspects of data and technology to improve advertising, such as the use of machine learning, its focus right now is mostly on the metaverse, Hudson said.
Some work the team has already been a part of includes Macy’s NFT series dedicated to its Thanksgiving Parade, the launch of Samsung’s metaverse space called 837X, and Campbell’s NFT drop.
“Our job is to think holistically,” Cohen said. “There’s a lot of connective tissue around what our clients need, but from an investment standpoint, we’re looking at unique elements of web3 assets that are viable in a marketer’s stack. So that includes commercial IP rights that come with certain NFT projects, the community and loyalty aspect and commerce proposition around brands entering the space.”
Earlier this week, Publicis announced a new chief metaverse officer. But that appointment isn’t a senior promotion or an executive swiped from a rival agency. Instead, he’s an avatar lion named Leon, who was unveiled at tech conference VivaTech in Paris. The Lion (based on the Publicis logo, not a Cannes lion, if you’re wondering) introduces himself in a tongue-in-cheek video, seen here, in which, among other things, he explains he’s a digital native who has spent his whole career at Publicis, before going on to crack some jokes about LinkedIn, Second Life and Mark Zuckerberg.
Cheesy jokes aside, the avatar (created by the chief creative officer of Publicis France, Marco Venturelli) symbolizes the holding company’s determination to harness the metaverse on behalf of its clients. Leon will act as a guide, according to Publicis, who will “accompany clients and help advise how to navigate and approach the meta jungle, with strategies unique to their business.”
“The metaverse isn’t a destination, it’s a real-time learning moment for all,” said Arthur Sadoun, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, in a statement. “It requires interrogation, education and experimentation. We are committed to being on that journey with our clients, to help them understand what it means for their business and to bring them the existing Web3 capabilities in the Groupe across data, media and technology. Leon embodies that as an avatar and will help our clients navigate this new channel and progress every step of the way.”
Metaverse spending could total up to $5 trillion by 2030, according to a prediction in a recent McKinsey report. But while the metaverse holds plenty of opportunities for brands, there are also red flags. The crypto market took a dive this month, and NFT fraud continues to make headlines, showing the growing pains of a new marketplace. Coinbase, one of the leading crypto wallet companies, laid off 18% of its workforce.
Despite some of the recent troubles in the industry, Levin and the new executives remain bullish on the future of Web3 and the metaverse, and haven’t heard any clients raise concerns.
“I think overall from an investment standpoint you’re seeing that kind of fluctuation in all markets,” Levin said, noting that the Fed raised interest rates this week. “They’re trying to get inflation under control. I think you’re seeing contraction everywhere. I think you’re seeing market adjustments as necessary. I think the NFT piece was always going to go through this. There was so much excitement. Let it contract. NFTs have become a utility to something much greater. I think yes, they’re down, but it’s still the right time to build towards this because I think everybody sees this as the next frontier.”
In this article:
Brian Bonilla covers ad agencies, including creative and media shops, experiential, health care agencies and more. He previously covered the private equity industry as a reporter for PEI Media.


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