US Backlash Against French Ad Firms ‘Unlikely’

21 March 2003

A politically motivated US backlash against French-controlled advertising and marketing networks Havas and Publicis Groupe is thought be unlikely, although the latter’s chairman/ceo Maurice Levy sounded a cautionary note. “A lot will depend on the course of the war. But it's in nobody's interests to make things more difficult than they are,” he said.

His overall tone, however, was more upbeat: “I'm getting daily reports from our US operations about what's happening. At present, all the bitterness seems to be confined to the US Congress and a few individuals. As far as business is concerned, we've seen no change of attitude by clients. I don't believe they will act unfavourably.”

Levy’s counterpart at Havas Alain de Pouzilhac is of like mind: “We work with customers, not nations. It’s absurd to think Intel would stop working with Euro RSCG in New York because Bush and Chirac don't get on. And could you imagine General Motors refusing to work with a French agency when it sells so many cars in France? It's easy to get all this out of proportion.”

The French duo, of course, have the strongest possible incentive to play down the threat of a US backlash again the decision of President Chirac not to toe the US line over Iraq [poodles the French are not]. But hard-headed analysts appear to hold views similar to Levy and de Pouillac.

Opined one, Numis Securities media analyst Lorna Tilbian: “I don't think there'll be a backlash by US clients against French-owned groups. Publicis and Havas not only service companies such as L’Oréal and Peugeot, but many local clients as well. The French may mix business and politics at home but they don't do it abroad. And the Americans aren't likely to cut off their noses to spite their faces.”

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