Talking AI with Guillaume Herbette

19 Sep,2017


Guillaume Herbette, Global CEO, MSLGroup is responsible for overseeing all MSLGROUP entities worldwide.  When he took charge of MSL in August 2015,  he brought with him over 25 years of varied experience to the role, including at FleishmanHillard as Global Vice Chairman of Operations, a US-based role that he took up in 2010.  Prior to that, Herbette served as chief operating officer for the firm’s US Eastern and Western regions and Canada regions, having initially joined FleishmanHillard in 1998 and working within the senior echelons of the company’s EMEA operations. Guillaume began his career at PwC, working for the professional services firm in both Paris and New York.

At Praxis2017 held in Jaipur last week, Herbette had everyone in a thrall as he passionately spoke about the emerging technological frontier, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its tools,  augmented intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality. Herbette is convinced that AI will herald the next big technological revolution and feels that PR companies must learn it and use it in their communication. While an opportunity of an exclusive interview gave an opportunity to talk about how and what MSL is doing in India, but getting a global PR biggie to talk on a key tech trend was even bigger. In this chat on the sidelines of Praxis 2017, Guillaume Herbert speaks with Rahul Chandawarkar on AI, the theme of his keynote and how it’s the next technological revolution…


We seem to be at the doorstep of the AI revolution. How should we be getting ready for it? 

Frankly, we do not have a choice. AI will impact PR consultancies, FMCG companies and branding companies in a big way. All these companies need to create AI-enabling platforms within their organisations quickly.


How can AI be combined with traditional storytelling?

It will offer several new ways to create content and new ways to communicate our stories. It will accelerate the manner in which we tell our stories. Tools like augmented reality and virtual reality will amplify the  emotional resonance in a client’s story substantially. AI is the next big  technological revolution.


And how is it being used currently to enhance the emotional resonance in storytelling?

Visa International ran an augmented reality-virtual reality campaign in Poland recently which saw a zoo-like situation being created inside a shopping mall frequented by children and their parents. Children suddenly could see lions, elephants and polar bears walking around them. Visa enhanced its brand image because it could create excellent emotional resonance among the children and their parents. The event went viral on social media and gave Visa tremendous visibility.


How do you foresee India adapting to AI?

India is a land of many brands. Homegrown and multinational. The average Indian is getting more educated, technologically savvy and affluent. India will adapt to AI very quickly.


India has a strong IT industry. Logically,  the Indian PR industry must lean on its IT counterparts to better understand and use AI, right?

Absolutely right. Let me give you an example. Publicis.Sapient, one of our group companies through its Indian arm, Sapient Razorfish India has 7,000 technologists working on the artificial intelligence (AI) platform Marcel. Our parent company, Publicis Groupe, plans to use Marcel to communicate and collaborate across its global network of agencies within one year’s time.

India has access to a highly technical workforce. The AI revolution will take place very quickly and rapidly in India.


Will future PR teams have engineers and IT folk in their ranks?

PR companies will surely need data scientists and IT engineers in their teams. These individuals will be necessary to leverage the benefits of  technologies like AI


Are you planning to train on AI at a personal level?

Yes, I am very interested in this topic and have a fair understanding of AI already. Companies like IBM run short courses on AI. I intend taking one of these courses to better understand the technology.


Will you get your senior management team to follow suit?

Yes, absolutely. I will be pushing my senior management teams across our network to follow suit and retrain themselves with AI.



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