Publicis Sapient global CEO: Brands are being defined by the experiences tech enables

Consultancy's global chief executive, Nigel Vaz, shares why he’s convinced there’s more opportunity than ever for digital to transform businesses, the CEO-CMO relationship, plus how marketers better harness digital and data to drive even more creativity

Nigel Vaz
Nigel Vaz

You have been appointed CEO of Publicis Sapient at what is a transformative time for the business. As you strive to unify the brand, what are doing to do to bring all those pieces together?

I’ve been in transition to this role for a long time, so I’ve spent 20 years helping build the company. What’s really important for me now is we recognise the strategic positioning digital occupies in the world of our clients. And that we’re positioned to capitalise on that to deliver them value.

The way we’re trying to deliver that is by fusing these different cultures we have nurtured over the years – design and experience, strategy and consulting, product management and development, and engineering.

What digital businesses do particularly well is be very clear about the problems they are put on the planet to solve. They’re very focused on their users, experiences they’re designing, and they’re very adept at engineering those. And they’re using the learnings from data to constantly refine. So to help our clients to complete on those dimensions, we need to weave together a breadth of skills, too.

Publicis, which has been around for 90 years, is there helping brands build relationships with consumers with a powerful value proposition. That story is still great, but it’s one half of the picture. Firstly, the brand has to build a relationship with the consumer, by essentially getting its message to the right person at the right time and to the right channel. For us at Sapient, it’s then how we help that consumer experience a brand, product or service in a way that ensure the brand delivers on that promise.

Looking at Publicis’ competitive landscape, you’re clearly facing a situation where there’s an incredible amount of overlap and change – just look at the consulting houses buying creative, digital and media agencies. How do you respond to that?

For all the talk, I don’t think the consulting businesses and agency holding companies are competitors; they overlap in a very narrow way. So I personally believe this talk of consulting businesses eating the lunch of holding companies is a little premature.

The reality is there are very few global CMOs awarding global campaigns or advertising contracts globally to consulting groups. Most of the challenges holding companies face are around how they restructure and transform in order to be more relevant to their core audience of the CMO.

Yes, in specific instances, Publicis is seeing competition from new players. But I’d argue that’s largely because Publicis bought someone like us, which now puts the group squarely in competition with people we at Publicis Sapient always competed with.

My analogy for the marketing and advertising space is from Game of Thrones. There was a construct introduced in the show in season one of ‘white walkers’; the undead things that were going to come back and kill everybody. That’s where we are in the marketing and advertising space right now: We are in Game of Thrones season one and the white walkers are coming. By season seven, the white walkers get destroyed in a single episode, because everyone else in the show gets their shit together.

For us as an industry, we have six seasons to figure out what we do to determine a positive outcome from that forthcoming battle. Of course, if we haven’t gotten it together by season seven, we could face an existential threat. But between now and then, we have some runway.

There’s not to say any constituency has it all figured out right now. If anyone had figured out the answer, all these companies would have transformed already. But I also don’t think transformation is something you can do, or for, a client. You have to do it with them. It essentially means they need to change too.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: 

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Channelling climate positive design

As we enter 2020, the new decade spells infinite possibility in digital and design. Yet ironically, the biggest trend we’re facing has nothing to do to with innovative technology. It is something much more ‘down to earth’: The state of our planet. Or more specifically: Climate change.

Katja Forbes

Founder and chief, sfyte

Non-linear transformation: The internal struggle

Let’s face it, transformation is messy. Every business is different, with a set of specific challenges based on a mixture of external (the market, competitors, regulation) and internal factors (technology, people and process investments over time).

Neil Kelly

Partner, transformation, Wunderman Thompson

7 ways to champion a human centred design culture

Human Centred Design (HCD) has come a long way in the last decade with many forward-thinking organisations now asking for HCD teams on their projects. It’s increasingly seen as essential to unlocking innovation, driving superior customer experiences and reducing delivery risk.

Shane Burford

Head of research and design, RXP Group

I think some of these ideas are great. These tips will help me to improve my system. Thanks!

Henry Reid

9 Ways to Improve Your Company's CRM System

Read more

It's a useful info for small businesses owners. We can't live without mobile apps. They are so helpful! It's hard to deny that.

Mae Davis

7 ways small businesses can benefit from mobile apps

Read more

Hi Jennifer,Fascinating read about design-led companies!If you would like to learn more, our Design Thinking and Innovation programme mig...

Andrea Foster

How to spot a ‘design-led’ versus ‘design-fed’ company

Read more

ABC web-site not easy to use/navigate. Even getting this far in sign-on to ABC My Space was problematic - it was asking for my password,...


How the ABC used an online community to help build a movement

Read more

Thank you for your feedback, Astha! Always appreciated.

Vanessa Skye Mitchell

5 things marketers should know about data privacy in 2020

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in