Publicis' Levy: We Need Both 'Snipers' And 'Carpet Bombers'

The advertising agency may be undergoing radical transformation as brands increasingly shift their focus and budgets to mobile and digital channels, but Publicis Groupe's CEO Maurice Levy believes there will always be a need for the traditional 30-second TV spot.

"We need both carpet bombing, which is advertising during events with large audiences, and snipers who go directly to the right approach [using digital]," said Levy, speaking during his keynote speech at MIPTV this week.

Levy said that "agencies have never been as strong as they are today." Still, his agency group is continuously adjusting its approach, based on changing consumer behaviors and client goals. 

Indeed, the effectiveness of digital efforts largely depends on the target consumer. The financial world, for instance, is the easiest one to focus on mobile and online outreach, since most consumers are active in these channels. "Digital helps us target the right cluster of people." As such, Publicis client American Express introduced roughly 4,000 ads last year -- 10 per day -- via online and mobile channels.

"Why so many?" asked Levy. "Because we can target more precisely in digital, by changing the tagline or approach to reach the right person."

On the other hand, consumer goods are more complicated, since the cost per unit is low and fine-tuning digital approaches is not as effective as reaching these same consumers through TV, says Levy.

Viral buzz delivers the best return on investment. Publicis client Samsung has recently scored big with two campaigns. The famous photo Ellen DeGeneres took at the Academy Awards represented an earned media value of between $800 million-$1 billion, says Levy. 

However, Levy hasn't valued the ROI of the more recent controversial Samsung photo of President Obama and Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz, but says it was definitely not an accidental photo. That said, he declined to reveal his "recipe" in setting it up. 

The world's third-largest agency holding company is set to become even bigger, with the impending $35 billion-dollar merger with Omnicom, yet Levy does not think agency consolidation will stifle creativity. "I don't see small start-ups as threats, but opportunities," he says. "There will always be new kids on the block that create something new, but that doesn't mean we still can't be fresh."

In fact, his agencies and resources have helped to invent new tools and approaches and have invested heavily in digital. "Innovation and creativity can come from anywhere," said Levy.

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2 comments about "Publicis' Levy: We Need Both 'Snipers' And 'Carpet Bombers'".
  1. Al DiGuido from Optimus Publishing , April 11, 2014 at 6:23 a.m.
    Would have thought that the CEO of Publicis ( a major marketing and advertising agency powerhouse) could have been more "sensitive" in selecting terms to define the needs and challenges that the industry faces. In today's day and age...do we really need to use the words "sniper" and "carpet bombing" as analagous to needs of the market...?
  2. Stephen Baldwin from Didit , April 16, 2014 at 3:05 p.m.
    Agree with you, Al. But that's the way that the trad guys continue to think of advertising -- as a way to target people. "Engagement" has a very specific meaning in a military context.