Media Buying Briefing: Publicis Media’s Jessica Berger on AI and innovation

This Media Buying Briefing covers the latest in agency news and media buying for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Monday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

It’s easy to think of innovation as something big, explosive and sudden, but that isn’t always the case.

Whether it’s artificial intelligence or influencer marketing platforms, Jessica Berger, svp of innovation for Publicis Media, finds that testing new technologies is sometimes about building off of existing trends and techniques – while being able to embrace rapid testing and versatility.

“I like to encourage people to think faster around change, because it’s happening at a faster scale and that is across industries, across technology,” Berger told Digiday. “So really become comfortable with the change and with testing and trialing something new. That is really important, no matter who you are as a brand or which category you focus on.”

Prior to Publicis Media, Berger came from public relations agencies including Weber Shandwick and Publicis’ PR firm MSL, where she worked on digital marketing campaigns. Now Berger guides brands on the new and next with her team as they work with clients from startups to Fortune 500 companies, like Samsung. The unit specializes in innovative storytelling for clients – ranging from experimenting with emerging technologies to developing new experience strategies, including augmented reality, creative services across Web3, gaming, immersive platforms and AI.

In this interview, Berger reflects on how changes like automation in content and the growth of influencer-focused agencies have shaped the business.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What is your current focus in the Publicis Media content and innovation team?

The [innovation space] that I work in is all about AI at the moment. It’s also all about mixed reality – but mostly AI, what it’s doing and where can we use it. There’s been a lot of talk about how that will actually change content creation and content curation. We talk a lot about algorithms that already tailor the content we see on feeds every single day … and think about innovation at large, or anything you want to test and learn. There’s emerging technology that you have never heard of – you want to just put it to the test. Let’s build something, prototype it, typically that applies to brand experiences … We often look at VR, AR, all the mixed realities, [including] using Apple Vision Pro.

AI is a big, big topic because everyone wants to understand the different platforms – how you can use it, why it works. You can [connect] it into Web3, you can take it into gaming entertainment, there’s lots of opportunity to really integrate it. It’s specifically media innovation and then emerging technology, and how they all come together.

There is a world where AI-free content is the true value, right? Strictly only human-created content … the subscription-based model where my favorite influencer is putting out content, and there’s no interruption. There’s no advertising or when a brand [appears, it is] clearly labeled as a brand deal. It’s something that we’re looking for specifically — more niche groups.

I know a lot of people always think [innovation] is like a big explosion of some big influencer or creator doing something – and all of a sudden everyone does it, which often, actually, is not true. What I see happening right now, for example, is lots of content automation. So if you’re on a channel or platform, how much of the content that I’m consuming is likely rescheduled, automated or enhanced in any shape or form? I always like to educate. For example: Okay, this [trend] is definitely happening over and over again, and where is that type of creator that would actually use it – or what is the type of brand that will more likely lean into these things and actually use it?

How does your approach in influencer marketing differ from influencer agencies?

It’s a different scale, right? Publicis Media, for example, brings an integrated approach [where you] have PR, media, content partnerships, influencer, innovation — in one house. They can all talk to the same customer and use all these benefits for your campaign. That’s a lot of benefit and there’s a lot of efficiencies. If you’re just going to the boutique agency that just does influencer, they might be doing it really well for sure, but they’re literally just doing that and that’s it. So as a client, I would weigh what is truly valuable to you and ultimately what you want to get out of it.

Color by numbers

Following the first presidential debate at the end of June on CNN and numerous primaries taking place in advance of a momentous election this November, many eyes are turning to political matters, including an expectation of just how much will be spent on advertising.

Independent media analyst Brian Wieser, in his Madison and Wall newsletter, recently scrutinized the political ad category, and found —surprisingly — that it may not be as big as was once expected, albeit still a record breaker.

Wieser amended his totals to $15.1 billion in 2024, down from $15.5 billion – which is still a significant jump over the last presidential year in 2020 which hit $14.1 billion. Wieser estimates that digital advertising will be the big winner, expected to attract 46% of all political advertising, up from 32% in 2020. By contrast, television will likely secure only 38% of political advertising in 2024 (Wieser didn’t provide a comparison to 2020 for TV).   Michael Bürgi

Takeoff & landing

  • Publicis One, mainly powered by Starcom, won Lego Group‘s global media business, which is reported to spend north of $400 million in media spend. The incumbent is IPG’s Initiative.
  • Dentsu tapped Annette Male to take on a dual role as chief business officer for EMEA, and chief client officer for the U.K. and Ireland. Although she was running a consultancy for the last year, Male was formerly director of global agency, APAC for Meta, and has held senior roles in APAC.
  • Havas’ cultural/entertainment/sports arm Havas Play partnered with sports marketing agency, Catalyst 4 Professional Sports Management, to pursue global and local sports sponsorships.

Direct quote

“The launch of CNBC’s sports vertical marks a pivotal shift in media strategy, highlighting the rising demand for specialized, data-centric sports business content. Timed strategically around the Olympics, the move leverages the global event to boost visibility and attract viewers interested in the business aspects of sports rather than recaps and highlights. This approach aligns with the evolving consumption habits of audiences who prefer in-depth analysis and insights into the sports industry’s financial and operational aspects.” 

— Daniel Evans, svp at AI video technology company Magnifi.

Speed reading

  • Michael Bürgi wrote about Eden Collective‘s evolution from a performance media shop to one that supports other agencies lacking that skill, as well as measurement and analytics support.
  • Seb Joseph covered Common Interest‘s aspirations to become a culturally authentic agency partner to brands through acquisition.
  • Bürgi also delved into the progress, or lack there of, media buyers are making in the upfront marketplace, along with the growing practice of investing in the upfront through programmatic means.

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