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4As Publicis Groupe Sir Martin Sorrell

Publicis boss Levy addresses JWT scandal comments claiming ‘there is a lot of work left to be done, across the industry’


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

March 30, 2016 | 3 min read

Maurice Levy, the chief executive of Publicis Groupe, has issued a company wide memo addressing the backlash he received after appearing to downplay concerns that sexism and racism are rife in advertising.

The statement came after Publicis Groupe boss Maurice Levy claimed that allegations of immoral conduct made against former JWT chief executive Gustavo Martinez was “one man’s mistake” and not “exemplary of what’s happening in our industry".

He said: “I don’t believe that what happened at JWT is exemplary of what’s happening in our industry. It’s a one-man mistake, but it’s not a fair representation of the industry.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that the comments did not go down well when made in response to a journalist’s question at the 4A's conference, with WPP chief Martin Sorrell going on the offensive stating that Mr. Levy “has a habit of ignoring the facts” completely contrasting the views stated by Publicis’ head at the time.

On Tuesday, in response Levy issued a company memo clarifying his stance, claiming that he was saying series incidents like the allegations that Martinez made comments disparaging black and Jewish people on top of rape jokes, were not widespread in the industry.

“I must say that his comments, if true, are jaw dropping. To such an extent, that in my opinion, they can only represent the unforgivable fault of one man, as opposed to an industry-wide evil. On this point, I maintain my position, and I dare hope that I am right - I can’t for one second imagine that it is common in our industry (or in any other) to make jokes at every turn about women, blacks and Jews, and to speak of a subject as sensitive as rape, as it was depicted in Erin Johnson’s complaint. Should a case of this nature be brought to our attention in our own Groupe, we would react strongly and without delay.

“I am not wide-eyed, and I am well aware that striking the deserved balance is still some distance away, we know there is a lot of work left to be done, across the industry, with regards to compensation, mobility, promotions, leadership and hiring.”

Levy also issued a return blow to Sorrell, claiming “This situation began in his company, in one of his largest agencies, with a CEO, therefore someone who is meant to lead by example, his colleague did everything possible to have her story be heard.”

4As Publicis Groupe Sir Martin Sorrell

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