Publicis Groupe’s Levy on Us

Who will become the new “Brand Navigator” in the digital, consumer-in-control era? Maurice Levy suggests, “the person who best understands the brand,” which isn’t necessarily the creative or media shop. If the brand represents the intersection of Consumer, Brand and Market realities (as expressed in our Real Branding logo), then the new Navigator will be the agency–or integrated, collaborating group of agencies–that unlock the most powerful insights and execute in the most relevant ways.

BusinessWeek’s Burt Helm has a solid article about where growth and value generation is happening in the world of Advertising and Marketing today. Here are couple of choice excerpts from Maurice Levy, the visionary and dynamic leader of Publicis:

[Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin] Roberts often finds himself outmaneuvered by fleeter rivals. His own boss even wonders if a creative agency like Saatchi should continue to manage a client’s branding efforts. Perhaps the digital specialists should do it,says Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, the French giant that owns Saatchi. Levy expresses nothing but affection and admiration for Roberts. But he warns: “It is no longer necessarily the creative agency dictating what’s best for the client.”

For those assuming that Levy is automatically directing the game at digital, it won’t go that way unless earned:

“It has to be the person who best understands the brand and the needs of that brand,” Levy says.

 Also, as a big fan of Robert’s Love Marks and of “The Big Idea” in general, I think the article stumbles in suggesting the “rise of the small idea.” That’s just wrong. How brands connect and court their beloved fans is definitely changing, but an inspired core and emotional center is essential. What seems to be confounding traditional marketers and their agencies is the expanded requirements for consistency in all ways and places of communicating which are equally expansive. It’s kind of like watching someone try approaches, lines and moves from a previous time in courtship. If the execution is dishonest, out of–or insensitive to–context, forced or irrelevant, it shows and makes everyone who sees it feel bad.

From my vantage point, the Big agencies have a lot of infrastructural investment in talent that is flailing and failing at executing in the digital, consumer-in-control age. Not bad people or even a weak premise; just in need of adapting and evolving to score with consumers.

For me, the headline on this article is the public record of the debate from agency ownership to leadership to brand marketers about who should lead brand navigation. As we’ve said all along, all roads are leading to digital. We welcome all our fellow travelers from every walk in marketing along this journey to our consumer’s hearts. It’s going to take equal strength in all disciplines to get that connection right.

BTW, in the same article online, you can also catch Bert Helm’s slideshow that describes his view of the advertising trail from past to present.


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