|January 7, 2009|
|Publicis' Levy Tangles with WPP's Sorrell in 'Tale of Two Cities'|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|Think of it as a reversal of “Tale of Two Cities.” Instead of heads rolling in Paris, they are being chopped from London. |
Silver-tongued Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy held court in the City of Lights Jan. 6 with the Financial Times, telling how the economic slump “excites my neurons.” Last month, Levy predicted creative advertising is going to cheer and inspire the newly unemployed, a group he said is bound to enjoy more sex due to a greater amount of free time.
In gloomy London, WPP Group CEO Martin Sorrell is hunkered down, plotting which staff to cut. (About 150 noggins were axed at Ogilvy & Mather/New York yesterday). In December, Sorrell said his job is to temper the optimism of many of his WPP operating unit chiefs. A WPP spokesperson did dismiss as “rubbish” a report that 10 percent of employees are destined for the boot.
The smooth-talking Frenchman Levy says he is reviewing an acquisition offer nearly every day, and plans to grab share during the slump. He vows that Publicis will emerge from the recession stronger than the rest of the heap. The Brit says North America and Europe are going to be scaled back with assets redeployed or expanded in China and India.
Levy — surely bolstered by his recent win over Sorrell in the odwyerpr.com poll of “with whom would you like to share a cup of Christmas cheer” — used the FT to take a swipe at the diminutive chief of Ireland-domiciled WPP. Referring to Sorrell’s suggestion that Publicis bulk up and join the top-tier by acquiring Interpublic, the haughty Frenchman said: “Such a deal is the fantasy of a little Englishman trying to stir things up. This man is more interested in the affairs of other businesses than in managing his own.”
In the spirit of fair play, this blogger emailed Sorrell for his thoughts about the Commander of the French Legion of Honor’s snippy remark. Sir Martin gallantly replied that his “mother always said good things come in little packages.” He believes his French counterpart took a cheap shot because “obviously we’ve touched a nerve.”
It would be refreshing if Omnicom’s John Wren and Interpublic’s Michael Roth showed some life by displaying the character and spunk of their European competitors. That personality gap came through loud and clear in the Christmas cheer poll. Wren and Roth (America’s home team) were trounced by Levy and Sorrell.
Good luck to all at Publicis, WPP, Omnicom and Interpublic.
(Photo: World Economic Forum via Flickr)
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