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.
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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

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.