Advertising’s Molecular Structure Analyzed Over Espresso

At Cannes last spring, Scott Donaton of Ad Age spoke with Maurice Levy, “the urbane and shrewd Frenchman” who helms Publicis Groupe, the world’s fourth-largest marketing-communications holding company. Sipping espresso and smoking a cigar on the terrace of the Majestic Hotel, Levy, waxed poetic.

“I have never stabilized an organization,” he boasted. “Crystallizing an organization is freezing the energy. In chemistry, instability is very good because it creates some combinations you don’t expect.”
“Without change, there is fossilization,” Levy warns, “and that’s the worst thing that can happen.”
“Ideas,” he says, “are so fragile, so tenuous” that managers must “destroy layers” that can obscure or damage them. “If you have an organization that is too administrative, you are just killing the ideas. As we say in France, when you ask a committee to draw a horse, you get a camel.”

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Genius.

  2. anonymous says:

    just curious. can anyone name a publicis shop that is NOT committee-centric?

  3. david carter says:

    Only in marketing could boring self-promotion be described as “waxing poetic.” And remember, it’s not bullying or browbeating; it’s the brave and visionary protection of fragile ideas.
    Perhaps Levy is hoping his poetics will be quoted in Henry G. Frankfut’s next book.

  4. Why do people insult camels like that? It seems pretty racist to presume camels should aspire to being horses.

  5. I think the various Fallons around the world aren’t committee-centric, and they are Publicis agencies. Publicis in Seattle has a wild hair. As do other Publicis-held companies like BBH.
    He’s successful. It’s worth hearing what he has to say. And camels should aspire to be horses, always.

  6. “Crystallizing an organization is freezing the energy.”
    “Without change, there is fossilization.”
    “As we say in France, when you ask a committee to draw a horse, you get a camel.”
    As we say in America, what a pompous, overwrought, meaningless load of camel shit.

  7. anonymous says:

    publicis is the 4th-largest marketing holding company on earth, yet you can only name a few shops (which, incidentally, were established long before being bought by levy).
    here’s a new question: can anyone name an agency that has experienced tangible benefits from being absorbed by a holding company?