Although Publicis Groupe's $4.4 billion acquisition of Epsilon was officially consummated under CEO Arthur Sadoun in April, the process actually began under Executive Chairman Maurice Lévy several years prior, when Lévy was still served as the Groupe's chief executive.
"It was a formidable and complicated deal," Levy explains during a one-on-one with MediaPost.
Lévy’s involvement with the deal — one of the largest in Adland history — underscores the fact that he remains fully engaged and extensively involved in the Groupe’s activities.
He works "shoulder to shoulder" with Sadoun, Lévy says. "I have a beautiful role," he jokes. "It allows me to sleep at night while Arthur does not."
Kidding aside, Lévy says his current role is to "assist" Sadoun to achieve the Groupe's goals whatever they may be. His current to-do list includes potential acquisitions and outlining strategic objectives.
"My role on the Supervisory Committee works in tandem with Arthur," he explains. "We are all on the same boat rolling in the same direction." He points out this relationship was similar to his partnership with the previous Chairperson Elisabeth Badinter, daughter of Publicis founder Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, when he was CEO.
"When there is something we must do, we make sure it gets assistance."
Lévy became the second Frenchman, joining Bleustein-Blanchet, to be inducted into the American Advertising Federation's Hall of Fame on April 30. Lévy previously demurred from the nomination because he felt it was "not appropriate" to be inducted while serving as the Publicis Groupe's CEO. Now, this acknowledgement recognizes his 30 years at the head of the company, when he led it to become the third largest communications group in the world.
Lévy’s decades-long experience provides him with singular insight into the evolving Adland landscape.
When asked whether he believes the industry is headed more toward "Math Men" a la data experts versus creative Mad Men, Lévy says in regards to both Math Men and Women, notably including both genders in his response, it isn't one discipline taking priority over the other, but "and."
Nowadays, creativity and data are so intertwined you need both to succeed. Lévy has always worked both sides of the debate. As leader, he pushed for higher levels of creativity, but his background was rooted in technology, having joined Publicis in 1971 as IT director.
Publicis' return to Cannes this year for the Festival of Creativity will also feature Lévy, who is expected to be on the ground for "less than 48 hours," most likely during the latter part of the week.
This week, however, Lévy is gearing up for Viva Tech, an annual Paris-based technology conference founded in 2016 by Publicis Groupe and Groupe Les Echos.
The event has exceeded Lévy’s "wildest dreams" with notable speakers at this year's May 16-18 event, including Canada's Prime Minster Justin Trudeau and Olympic superstar Usain Bolt, supporting the Bolt electric scooter.
Three members of the European Commission will discuss leadership challenges ahead of the European Parliament elections happening May 23 to 26. Ex-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will address China as well as intellectual property concerns.
Securing Alibaba's Jack Ma's appearance was "complicated" after he spontaneously accepted Levy's offer, but then realized he had a conflicting board meeting happening at the same time. The fact he moved his meeting tells a lot about Ma's honor and the importance of Viva Tech, says Lévy.