Publicis asks workplaces around the world to help employees fighting cancer

Publicis Groupe launched a very different kind of global campaign on Tuesday, inspired by CEO Arthur Sadoun’s personal battle with cancer.

“Working with Cancer” is described as a “cross-industry coalition” that asks businesses to provide more support to employees dealing with the disease. Publicis has made changes to its own benefits and support programs, and is asking its clients, suppliers and other businesses to sign a pledge to “abolish the stigma and insecurity” that people living with a cancer diagnosis often face.

Sadoun was diagnosed with cancer last April, and learned through that experience that up to 50% of people diagnosed with cancer are afraid to inform their employer. “It is a tough reality, but whether directly or indirectly, every one of us will have to confront cancer in our lives and in our workplaces,” he said in a release. “Companies have a key role to play in that.”

Leading cancer organizations Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), MacMillan Cancer Support, and the Gustave Roussy Institute are behind the campaign, while a number of large global businesses including Bank of America, Disney, Google, L’Oréal, McDonald’s, Meta, Mondelez, Microsoft, Nestlé, Pepsico, Toyota, Unilever, Verizon, and Walmart have already signed the pledge. Publicis competitors Omnicom and IPG have also both signed on.

Publicis created an ad campaign to raise awareness about the “Working with Cancer” pledge, which Sadoun introduced at the World Economic Forum in Davos. A larger media campaign will launch on Feb. 4, World Cancer Day, with $100 million of donated media from around the world.

The 80-second video released Tuesday shows people at work acting as it nothing as wrong, while supers reveal the real challenges they face as they deal with cancer.

“[Sadoun] made a promise to himself that when he was better, and when he had recovered, that he was going to create a large initiative to eradicate the stigma of sharing your illness with those you work with,” said Andrew Bruce, Publicis Groupe Canada CEO.

“Arthur has a great turn of phrase to explain this: ‘First you’re afraid for your life, and then you’re afraid for your job.’ You should never be afraid for your job.”

Publicis is making changes to its benefits programs (see the Publicis pledge below), but the pledge, at, does not set out specific changes for those willing to sign on.

“What we’re asking companies to do is to take the pledge, to eliminate the stigma and to create a conversation around [cancer],” said Bruce. Many workplaces already have good benefits in place, but they need to talk about them more so employees know they exist and feel safe talking talk about their illness if they choose.

The starting point for Publicis was to review all of its benefits programs to ensure there are no limitations or restrictions that can make it difficult for those with cancer to get the treatment they need.

“We’re eradicating all of those and extending our benefits such that people don’t have to worry about how they’re going to get paid and how they’re going to be covered, and they can focus on healing themselves,” said Bruce.

Publicis has also started reaching out to all of its Canadian clients to ask for their support.

“Our early experience with our major clients, our global clients, has been unbelievably positive,” said Bruce. “What we’re hopefully going to do is create this massive universe of companies in our industry, and outside, that are going to get behind this.”

Publicis’ commitment to help employees with cancer includes:

  • Secure the job, salary level, and benefits of any Publicis Groupe employee diagnosed with cancer for at least one year;
  • All Publicis Groupe employees with cancer will be individually accompanied when they return to work through personalized career support;
  • All affected Publicis Groupe employees will have access to an internal community of volunteers (peers) who are properly trained to provide support, through the Marcel platform;  and
  • All Publicis Groupe employees in a primary caregiver role for a patient in their immediate family will receive custom personal and professional support to navigate the flexibility and time arrangements needed to maintain their energy at work and as a caregiver.


David Brown