We recently had the privilege of sitting down with Sir Martin Sorrell, the boss of the world’s biggest advertising company WPP. In the interview we discussed everything from the numerous geopolitical “potential Sarajevos,” the rise and rise of ad tech and his personal career highs and lows. He also spoke about his old rivalry with competitor Maurice Levy, the chairman and chief executive of French advertising agency holding group Publicis Groupe.
When asked whether the apparent hatred that plays out between the two admen was just pantomime, Sorrel replied:
“I don’t know if it’s pantomime. I think Maurice is smarted from, and his concerns probably emanated from, the Cordiant transaction [WPP beat Publicis Groupe to acquiring the advertising agency in 2003].
“I think he’s probably deeply upset that in any contested in the public markets, we’ve always emerged successful. I think he’s found that very difficult to accept.”
So, of course, we contacted Maurice Levy to see what he thought about Sir Martin Sorrell’s comments. In summary: he doesn’t agree. Quelle surprise!
Here was the response Levy sent us via email in full:
Martin Sorrell likes to think that whatever he says is the truth. He’s often acting like a toddler arguing over who’s got the best Halloween costume.
But facts are facts. He can claim whatever he wants, but the reality is that we are hiring more senior people from WPP than he is hiring from us and we are winning more accounts from them as well.
The list of wins is too long and would probably be boring for the readers, but just to name a few: some key assignments from HSBC, PUMA, Pitney Bowes Media, the Renault-Nissan digital pitch, some important wins in China like Sands ; Red Lobster in the US and the list goes on and on.
Recently we bested WPP in the digital consolidation pitch for JP Morgan Chase, for Visa and Honda and this summer we bested them in all four Samsung pitches: boutique, media, network and digital.
This by no way means that WPP is not a good company or not winning, including against us. Competition in our world is tough. Kindergarten fights are just stupid.
I want to stop this childish exchange through media. They have more important news and facts to report.
The pair’s most recent media spat came earlier this week when Publicis Groupe announced it was acquiring digital marketing company Sapient for $US3.7 billion.
The Drum reported that Levy then retorted later in the day on a conference call with journalists, saying: “I didn’t know that Sir Martin knew anything about love. I don’t believe it is his area of expertise. If it is about disdain or hatred, this is an area where he has a lot of talent — when it comes to love he should leave that to the French. I’m used to his nasty remarks… at his age it is too late to change, and particularly late to improve.”
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