Left Brain, Meet Right Brain

Maurice Lévy gets more press than any ad man on the planet. And it’s mostly favorable.
Fast Company’s Linda Tischler did manage to offer this criticism:

Maurice Lévy confesses over cappuccino at a New York hotel, the only reason he got into the ad business was to chase skirt.

Although, in his native France, that insight into the man’s character would hardly pass as criticism.
Thankfully, Tischler dug for more substantive material for her piece and she found it. She looks closely at Lévy’s “two Davids,” Droga and Kenny. The two men represent the great challenge before the industry, balancing the power of creative with the lure of reliable data (that clients are increasingly hungry for).

The undercurrent of panic at big agencies is palpable, as is the hunger for fresh approaches. How Publicis is attacking this reality is a case study for the industry — and a saga of unexpected self-discovery. The rising stars across Madison Avenue are the folks who can best target consumers, deliver tailored messages, and analyze performance. The joyless granularity that once made direct marketing, digital’s forebear, the lowest caste in advertising, has come out on top. And suddenly left-brainers like Digitas CEO David Kenny can crow, “We’re all gearheads here!” without worrying that he’ll be barred from the cool-kids’ table in Cannes.
For Lévy, the holy grail is to make Droga a little more like Kenny — and vice versa. Lévy’s grand vision is an interlocking system in which data are at the service of creativity, and creativity is responsive to the data. Despite all the focus on click rates, numbers alone, he knows, won’t fuel performance without the sizzle that gets target customers excited. “We can’t have a line that is pure digital,” he says. “We have to be digital with humanism.” In short, he needs a fully functioning cortex with synapses firing efficiently and cheerfully across the divide. The complementary brains of his two Davids, Kenny and Droga, lie at the heart of this strategy. Now he just has to prove that it all works.

Personally, I don’t see Droga’s “QVC meets MTV” contribution, also known as Honeyshed, as a creative answer for the digital age. But I guess the data will determine that.

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. The bigger issue with Honeyshed, et al. is why you would hire an ad agency to create long-form programming.
    Writer’s strike or not, there’s a whole industry out in Los Angeles that has over 60 years of experience writing, directing and producing this sort of stuff. Probably for a whole lot less money. I’m not sure where advertising agencies fit into that equation.
    The flip, of course, is that without these sexy TV or video projects, you’re not going to keep attracting the same level of talent to creative departments. An agency of “gearheads” is going to attract a very different type of person.

  2. I have no problem with Droga5 creating content to support brands. In my view that precisely what they ought to be doing, and the rest of us with them. It’s the content itself that I’m objecting to. There’s got to be a more creative way to move product than a sexed up QVC.

  3. Onthedownlow says:

    Not too mention — especially in regard to Digitas — there has never been a client they haven’t been able to piss off because they have no clue on how to actually meet the needs of the client at the end of the day…. data be damned!
    (DK has admitted as much previously to me…)