Mauricé Levy’s Publicis and the audacious ‘merger of equals’ with John Wren’s Omnicom has prompted reams of commentary. It’s big news, not just for the ad industry, but for the business world as a whole.
But it’s the men behind the deal and their respective characters that has also prompted much comment. John Wren, the quiet one and Maurice Levy, the charming, engaging Frenchman, always ready with a witty observation, a man who appears to relish his time in the spotlight. It’s the cult of the CEO and the tale of two dynamically opposing but complementary elder statesmen under the microscope and makes for fascinating reading.
Yet it was a piece in this weekend’s FT (3/4 August) – ‘A suave ad man who is not ready to face his swansong,’ by Adam Thomson that hit on a couple of characteristics the all truly charismatic leaders, be it in business or other walks of life always display. Thomson quotes Levy’s friend, Jean-David Levitte, a former French ambassador to Washington who says of him. “He gives you the impression when you are with him that only you exist.” We all know people like this and we all know how they make us feel and therefore the power and influence they have over us. It’s the polar opposite of the Harry Enfield’s ‘Very Important Man’ character who is always looking over the shoulder of the person he’s talking to for someone more worthy of his station to engage with. And we all know people like that.
Thompson also recounts Levy’s penchant for sending hand-written thank you notes, another weapon in his charm arsenal. I’ve received two hand-written thank you notes in the last couple of weeks and they made me feel great. One was from my former boss thanking me for dinner, and the other from a former freelance employee, also with impeccable manners, again thanking me for including him in a Velvet dinner invite. While the value of the handwritten note may be well documented it always makes for impact, such is its rarity. Levy clearly understands people inside out and the value of charm in every aspect of life.
Having seen him talk close-up to an audience of senior marketers, I can confirm that he is indeed hugely charming. It will be interesting to see how this quality plays its part in making the biggest merger the ad industry has ever seen come together in the months ahead.