Sunday, August 11, 2013

11347: C’MON WHITE MAN! Episode 30.

(MultiCultClassics credits ESPN’s C’MON MAN! for sparking this semi-regular blog series.)

MultiCultClassics further examines the legend of Maurice Lévy, who once rescued company files from a burning building and ultimately rose to the top of Publicis Groupe.

First of all, putting company files—especially those of an advertising agency—ahead of your own life is just plain stupid. Secondly, IT guys are deemed heroes if they can fix your laptop in a reasonably short time. Can’t think of a single one who has risked death for his employer. So it’s a safe bet that the true size and danger of the conflagration have been exaggerated. Ditto the accomplishments of Lévy.

For example, the story chronicling the IT-guy-turned-firefighter’s antics included the following: “Publicis averted disaster [from a fire that tore through the agency] because a young executive who ran the firm’s computer system, Maurice Lévy, saved the agency’s files on magnetic tape, helping it to get up and running again within days. That act of forward thinking caught the attention of the agency’s founder, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, who picked Mr. Lévy as his successor, putting Publicis on a path of technology-focused growth.”

A path of technology-focused growth?! Lévy has only managed to purchase agencies like Digitas and Razorfish—two of the shittiest digital enterprises ever—and none have experienced steady growth and/or consistently collaborated successfully with other Publicis firms. The C-suite turnover rate of Publicis’ digital acquisitions has been ridiculous, particularly in the creative departments. Meanwhile, the traditional advertising agencies within the network have floundered when attempting to integrate digital. For Publicis, the path is extending to pathetic in regards to focusing on technology.

This goes to show that IT guys are no less clueless about digital than anyone else in the industry. Understanding computers and servers does not translate to digital communications expertise; otherwise, Lévy would undoubtedly recruit for talent from Best Buy’s Geek Squad.

To make a sloppy segue, Lévy’s digital feats are as questionable as his diversity feats. In a recent interview with The Huffington Post, Lévy noted similarities between Publicis Groupe and Omnicom when saying, “We share the same respect for individuals, for cultures, for diversity…” This is an accurate statement, as both companies have demonstrated little respect for individuals, culture and diversity; additionally, Publicis Groupe and Omnicom have both failed miserably in their respective attempts to build inclusive workplaces.

Although Lévy has not yet won an ADCOLOR® Award or been named a Pioneer of Diversity, he did receive the Anti-Defamation League’s 2008 International Leadership Award for “his commitment to promoting tolerance and diversity.” In accepting the trophy, Lévy gushed, “I am deeply honoured by this award from the Anti-Defamation League. It also makes me very proud of what the networks and agencies of Publicis Groupe have achieved over the years. We have put diversity at the very heart of all our recruitment and retention policies, throughout the Groupe, around the world. ‘Viva la difference’ has long been our motto, and we are moving very quickly to make sure that every single employee, whether in Shanghai or Sao Paolo or here in New York understands that diversity is a core principle of our Groupe.”

Lévy was either delusional or lying—or both—when he declared his firm was “moving very quickly to make sure that every single employee…understands that diversity is a core principle of our Groupe.” In 2011, the Publicis Groupe website trumpeted, “We Are Multicultural”—while depicting leadership that was predominately White. The current website barely mentions diversity, opting to proclaim, “Today, we are the Human Digital Agency, one where digital is at the heart of all our operations.” This post has already recognized Publicis’ digital deficiencies. The company’s diversity delinquencies may be worse.

Could Lévy’s French heritage partially explain his cultural cluelessness? France has struggled with diversity throughout its history—and the country forbids the categorization of the population via ethnicity. Lévy appeared awkward in 2009 when saluting the U.S. for electing President Barack Obama. And Publicis’ congratulatory ADCOLOR® ad in 2010 was pretty clumsy too. Then again, to be fair, Lévy is probably not significantly more ignorant than his American counterparts.

The sad reality is, as Publicis Omnicom Groupe takes shape, look for Lévy to emulate his U.S. peers. He’ll organize an International Diversity Development Advisory Committee. Tiffany R. Warren will be crowned Planetary Chief Diversity Officer. The invention of minority youth outreach programmes, scholarships and inner-city high schools will skyrocket. Lévy will reintroduce every contrived, tax-deductible “solution” that has already proven ineffective—and he’ll believe he’s breaking new ground with each unveiling.


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