Handbags at Dawn in Davos: Sorrell Squabbles With Lévy

28 January 2008

DAVOS: In an industry famed for its rampant egos, adland's senior honchos are no shrinking violets. WPP Group ceo Sir Martin Sorrell and Publicis Groupe chairman/ceo Maurice Lévy are no exception to that rule.

So what better platform for a public spat than the high profile World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland?
News last week that Publicis had formed a technology and creative alliance with Google, facilitating exchanges of staff and know-how, gave Lévy a chance to take a gentle sideswipe at his rival. 
"Google is not a short-term friend and a long-term enemy", he said, quoting verbatim (with the omission of the word 'not') Sorrell's much publicised aphorism early last year. 
Countered the adland knight: "Next time I meet with [Google's] Eric Schmidt, I think we'll send out a press release: "This morning I met with Maurice Levy." Does this mean we're putting together a joint venture?
"What Publicis is doing represents a little bit of a concern that they didn't get the technology right. I think Maurice is acknowledging a bit of an Achilles heel when it comes to technology."
Not to be out-bitched, Lévy unsheathed his claws. "I'm sorry Martin said that: it's really cheap, but it's probably the result of his lack of understanding of technology.
"He's a financier, I'm an engineer, and you can see the difference. I'm pleased with what we have done, and I'm sorry that my dear friend has not understood it."

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff