Maurice Levy warns brands the Internet of Things could make them ‘irrelevant’

Mobile World Congress 2018: Publicis Groupe’s chair and former CEO says marketers must change the way they think if they want to take on Amazon and Google.

Maurice Levy, the chair and former CEO of Publicis Groupe, warns the Internet of Things could make brands “irrelevant” in future if they do not master new technology and find more intelligent and creative ways to market to consumers.

As digital giants such as Amazon and Google continue to roll out increasingly clever tech into the home, Levy says there is a risk consumers will “barricade” themselves behind the Internet of Things and that could cut advertisers out of the purchase journey altogether.

“If we go to the extreme – and we’re not there yet – the marketing and communication of tomorrow is computer to computer, where brands will not be marketing to the consumer but to the fridge or the computer,” Levy says.

“[It] will be interesting…because if you have a replenishment of your fridge which is automatic and Amazon or Walmart is sending you the repeat of what you have, it’s impossible for a new brand or product to enter into your fridge.”

The big challenge here, he says, is people will start telling their fridge to order the cheapest product without thinking about the brand.

“So you need to have some clever approach which will be based on artificial intelligence and you have to change the way you are thinking about marketing,” he explains.

“I believe there will be a lot of ways to continue to communicate with people and interact with them but clearly there will be some challenges.”

READ MORE: Mark Ritson – Voice search spells trouble for both brands and retailers

Brand safety

Levy was speaking at Mobile World Congress 2018 today (28 February), where he also revealed “several” Publicis clients pulled their ads from Facebook and Google last year in the wake of the brand safety scandal.

When asked whether pulling ads from platforms that cannot guarantee a safe environment is a stance Publicis is willing to take – alongside the likes of P&G and Unilever – Levy said: “Who is telling you we’re not doing this from time to time? It has happened but it’s quiet. We don’t need to have a headline in the press.”

While Levy says this has not continued into 2018 “yet”, Publicis, which is the world’s third-largest ad agency, has been having “very interesting” discussions with the platforms and has “put some solutions in place”.

“[Clients] are serious and it is extremely important both Facebook and Google can control the content and assure our clients they will not be in a difficult situation,” Levy says.

“It is extremely important for the people at large too. Facebook has an important role to play in communication and Google is becoming a partner of the daily life of everyone.”

Hide Comments3 Show Comments
  • jesse gilbert 28 Feb 2018 at 9:31 pm

    yep. exactly. even google is not immune with quantum mechanics the whole thing could fit in 1/16th a bot’s brain. the strategy for the marketer on a budget is brand concept over technology.

  • Ash Gupta 1 Mar 2018 at 11:09 am

    What Maurice says is important. He is a wise man. But the fact is that the IOT, Big Data, Smart Cities and even autonomous vehicles of all forms, be they planes, cars, trucks, vessels at sea or drones are all not feasibly safe if they can be hacked. They all can be hacked as can Bitcoin. Until we take steps to close the built-in vulnerabilities of back doors that exist in every item of hard ware and software that we currently use, none of these market transformational opportunities can happen safely. Our IT industry is content to put sticking plaster over back-doors as they make great revenues by doing this but that does not enable these market transformational opportunities that can transform the market to be seeded. The US Sultans of Tech own retail and many other internet services like google, Facebook, and cloud, but not yet the IOT. Being the masters of The IOT must be our collective goal in Britain and Europe. It is my most urgent driving force. Some readers of MW may remember me as a marketing man from the 1980’s but this cyber security mission is now more urgent to me personally. Check Cyber Security at If you wish to team with me I have some unique keys to the future but be warned. I am very careful regarding whom I engage with. Some marketeers have agile minds and are adept at breaking the rules to enable market disruptive change. I need to find trusty worthy fellows who meet that criteria.

  • Steven May 2 Mar 2018 at 1:12 pm

    As a small start-up manufacturing the Worlds first, retrofit fridge camera that can make any fridge a smart fridge I am delighted to hear an industry leader referencing our technology and how it help the consumer. FridgeCam allows the consumer to always see what they need in their fridge where they are, it can recognize and remember items and track best before dates so everything that Maurice predicted…and it launches in every Currys store in the UK in April.

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