Lest one assume that Publicis Groupe chairman Maurice Levy spent time during the COVID-19 lockdown gardening at his estate in Provence France, Levy tells MediaPost that he stayed in Paris working 12- to-14-hour days.
“I was unsure about the Internet connections” he explains as if that would be the only reason his relocation to the South of France was tabled during the pandemic.
As board chairman Levy has remained “very involved” in the company’s operations since he stepped away from the role of CEO in June 2017. He states that his key responsibilities focus on investor engagement and the “well-being of select clients” as well as developing long-term strategy.
CEO Arthur Sadoun, by comparison, runs the company and makes all of the decisions.
“We work very closely,” says Levy. “Our relationship is absolutely perfect. I am not trying to do his role and he isn’t trying to do mine.”
The two leaders talk “every day, usually twice a day,” he adds. Levy is quick to lend his support when needed. For instance, he is always willing to assist with client relationships that he knows extremely well.
Levy has the time to fully devote himself to the Groupe now that his short stint at WeWork has concluded.
Levy is quick to credit Sadoun with helping to position the Groupe for the future. While he started the Power of One reorganization centered around clients, Sadoun “took a further approach” by aligning a country by country model. Sadoun also created a new approach embedding data, media with creative that is “working extremely well.”
Most recently, Levy applauds Sadoun’s decision to guarantee smaller account media campaigns through “The Pact.”
He admits he is envious of Sadoun’s English, joking that it has improved immensely from when he first gained the title of CEO. “He has made more progress with his accent,” admits Levy. “We both still have our broken English accents, but our values, approach, audacity is the reason why clients and people continue to work here.”
As the industry looks forward to a return to normalcy post-pandemic, Levy believes the months ahead are likely to serve as a “reset” to reinvent the traditional holding company model. “This is a situation in life when everyone is thinking about what can I do differently?”
Levy, similar to other leaders, says the crisis has accelerated many industry trends, specifically to refocus the model around the client. “It is not about the organization,” he says. “The most pressing and urgent concern is the client and to fix their issues.”
He believes the company is well-positioned to thrive in a post-pandemic world. “Success is never just one ingredient. It is always a collection of elements.” His recipe includes surrounding yourself with “people better than you,” and adhering to strong values.
The Groupe’s “Viva La Difference” mantra remains as vital today as it did 25 years ago, he states. “We are not implementing programs in a time of crisis because they are embedded in our company.”
Levy points out that the company’s promotion of women is not “lip service,” as it has pushed a 50/50 board representation long before it became an industry trend.