Publicis Media IQ Academy: The e-learning platform that teaches colleagues, clients and itself

With marketing technology developing at a fast pace, knowledge gaps are an increasingly common problem at every level of the media industry. For Publicis Media, with more than 23,500 employees operating in over 110 countries worldwide, closing those gaps across its brands demands fresh thinking, flexibility and an innovative approach. Another thing that's clear: The landscape might be changing, but the need for upskilling is here to stay. Enter the Publicis Media IQ Academy.

A version of this perspective previously appeared in Media Village.

To get started, the agency set goals to help put e-learning front and center of their learning strategy, which included ensuring maximum learning benefits with minimum disruption; closing knowledge gaps with efficiency and speed; creating bespoke learning pathways for specific needs, and earning the trust of colleagues, clients and partners.

Then, they sculpted these approaches specifically for agency life:

Reduce:  Build microlearning with interactive lessons that take 3-5 minutes, which helps users integrate education into their work day.

Provide:  Make courses available and accessible anywhere, where individuals can self-identify weaknesses and address them at speed without waiting for trainers to come to them.

Customize:  Develop modular lessons, which mean teams can create their own courses, specific to their locality, management level and other factors.

Be Agnostic:  Steer clear of courses that promote specific tech solutions.  Publicis Media has built trust in the transparency of its content.

Now Publicis Media integrates upskilling into everyday agency life through its IQ Academy and innovative e-learning platform.  The results to date?

  • An 85% pass rate for courses after three months.
  • The Publicis Media Global Learning Strategy team grew 600% in three years, including instructional designers, e-learning developers, content development managers, platform specialists and an internal business development team.
  • There is access for Publicis employees to an expanding range of over 200 industry relevant courses.

Fill the Largest Knowledge Gaps First

Natasha Morris, Director of Global Learning Strategy for Publicis Media, explained how the e-learning platform was built with a specific aim in mind. "We initially identified understanding of programmatic advertising as the largest knowledge gap within the business, from junior staff all the way through to senior leadership," she said. "We knew we had pockets of people who were experts in the subject, so we looked for a way to share that knowledge out across our brands without flying staff around the world and pulling people out of their daily roles. That's why we decided to build something global: a connected platform that everyone could access."

Publicis Media then created an extensive course in programmatic advertising to cover everything from jargon to optimization, giving users the foundation they need to handle the subject with confidence. Broken down into 22 modules, the course covers every step of the programmatic campaign management lifecycle and includes six assessments and a certification exam endorsed by IAB UK and Ad Exchanger.

"We quickly realized we were onto something important," Morris noted. "We started getting requests from teams to build out content in other areas."

Pick Resources from Partners

Instead of reinventing the wheel, Publicis Media expanded the resources available on the platform by enlisting subject matter experts and connecting with a series of partners to bring their resources into the IQ Academy through an API integration. At the same time, the company has taken care to keep their platform partner agnostic and add flexibility to give the learning experience transparency and credibility.

Google's Academy for Ads e-learning platform quickly emerged as a natural partner. Not only were teams specifically requesting Google training on major topics, the Academy for Ads resources were a natural fit.

"If you look at our content side by side, you can see that Google's approach mirrors our own in terms of ethos, style, interactivity and partnerships," Morris said. "That's made Google a paramount partner with content that's going to sit well with what our audience expects from us."

Expand Intelligently Using Data

To keep the Publicis Media IQ Academy responsive to the shifting media environment, Morris and her team solicit feedback from users through focus groups and feedback forms positioned strategically throughout courses. The goal is not to just add new resources but modify their holistic approach to learning, too. By examining user data, the team can also single out drop-out rates at weak points in the content and for the development team to edit.

"That feedback-focused approach is really coming into its own now," Morris explained. "We used to have courses lasting up to 15 minutes when we started, and we've learned to change that so that nothing is longer than five minutes. We're trying to be as agile as we possibly can, not only to understand our learners, but to look at different trends in learning as well, making things more mobile, embracing microlearning and exploring VR. Where our Programmatic course had 22 modules, our Data course has 88 much shorter modules that amount to a similar total learning duration as a direct result of what we learned from user feedback.

Take It Out to Clients

"It quickly emerged that users on the platform wanted to take this out to their end clients, which really gives us a competitive advantage in the marketplace," Morris continued. "One client who completed a course held a roundtable to directly question technology partners, using their foundational knowledge. It let Publicis Media see the effect of their content come to life in the room. Clients knew exactly what to ask."

In a recent survey by their Global Learning Strategy team, 86% of respondents confirmed the effectiveness of the platform's content. From a platform that started out as a way to bridge a single skills gap, the IQ Academy is rolling out across the entire Publicis Groupe this year.

"We no longer have to arrange for everyone to sit in an auditorium and make notes," Morris concluded. "E-learning means people can do 15 minutes every morning and receive a certification after six weeks. It's enabled us to focus on retaining talent with learning that gives staff recognized skills and improves their sense of investment in the company. That's a phenomenal development in intensive training for large numbers of people."

Takeaways for those planning their own e-learning platform include the following:

  • Transparency is key.  Teams need to trust that learning material is not compromised by bias towards one technology or another.
  • Modular microlearning delivers optimal results.  Chopping lessons into three-to-five- minute chunks means users make solid, incremental progress over time with minimal impact to their daily schedule.
  • Couple feedback and flexibility.  Listen to user needs with focus groups and feedback forms, then present modular resources for teams to customize their own learning path.
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