June 13, 2024

Arthur Sadoun made a notable contribution to cancer care in 2023, and it had nothing to do with science or medicine. Rather, his focus is on corporate support for employees—both those of the French-based advertising juggernaut Publicis Groupe, where he is global CEO and chairman, and those of other companies across sectors around the world—who are being treated for cancer or caring for someone who is.

In January, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Sadoun and the Publicis Foundation announced the Working With Cancer campaign. It invites companies to take a pledge to provide—and, crucially, communicate—policies and programs available to help employees with cancer. So far, more than 1,300 employers, with more than 35 million employees in total, have taken the pledge.

Statistics support Sadoun’s argument that cancer care is a fact of life for many of us, and one that employers shouldn’t ignore. Roughly 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in the lifetime. And according to Publicis, while more than 90% of cancer patients say the support they receive has a positive impact on their health, 50% are reticent to inform their employer of their illness.

Sadoun understands these dynamics firsthand. In 2022, he made the decision to publicly disclose that he was being treated for cancer.

“Cancer is such a particular thing—it is so emotionally charged,” he told Quartz when he started the Working With Cancer pledge. “It has such an impact on your life that you lose confidence. I’m the CEO of a 100,000-person company. I lost confidence, too. [I thought:] ‘How am I going to go through this? What will happen to my family? What will happen to my people?’”

Sadoun, 52, had already been leading Publicis for five years when he was diagnosed. He is only the third CEO in the history of the firm, which was founded in 1926 and today has 101,000 employees in more than 100 countries. (Its advertising brands including Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi, and BBH.)

The Working With Cancer campaign launched with a $100 million advertising war chest, donated by pledge partners. It made quick use of the funds, buying advertising time during the 2023 Super Bowl, which aired just a few weeks after Davos. In June, the campaign was awarded the “Grand Prix for Good” at Cannes Lions, the annual industry gathering for marketing creatives from around the world.

“Working with Cancer stopped us in our tracks,” said advertising executive Mel Routhier, the chief creative officer at VMLY&R Chicago and the 2023 jury president for health and wellness at Cannes Lions. “We not only saw a brilliantly creative idea, but we also saw a globally impactful one—with scale, inclusivity and the real potential to change employee care forever.”

This story is part of Quartz’s Innovators List 2023, a series that spotlights the people deploying bold technologies and reimagining the way we do business for good across the globe. Find the full list here.

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