Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Lévy sent an internal memo to employees today defending the statements he made at the 4A’s Transformation conference last week about the J. Walter Thompson discrimination suit and slammed Martin Sorrell for his "hypocrisy" when the WPP CEO criticized his point of view at the event the next day.
The discrimination suit and the issues it raised about gender discrimination and diversity in the industry was a hot-button topic throughout the conference last week, but it was Lévy’s comments describing the case as an isolated incident rather than an industry-wide problem that drew the most fire from Sorrell, attendees, social media and even 4A’s president Nancy Hill, who also told the audience she disagreed with him after his presentation.
In the memo, Lévy defended his remarks and essentially repeated the statements he made at the conference. Citing the alleged racist and sexist comments made by J. Walter Thompson’s former CEO Gustavo Martinez, Lévy said, "They can only represent the unforgivable fault of one man, as opposed to an industry-wide evil. On this point, I maintain my position."
However, Lévy’s memo took issue with the comments made by the WPP chief about him. The day after Lévy’s presentation, Sorrell told attendees he "disagreed violently with that supposition" and accused Lévy of "ignoring the facts."
"I must say that he once again showed his extraordinary level of hypocrisy," wrote Lévy, digging into his own attack of WPP and Sorrell’s behavior at the 4A’s conference. "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, without it being so, even from the very person who should listen - the Chief Talent Officer. A situation that has been going on for over a year, and his response as CEO of the largest advertising company globally was nothing but a dilatory tactic, attacking ad hominem one of his colleagues during a flagship industry event, while my name was neither mentioned nor implied in the question."
"We could have expected more dignity from him, especially as during my interview, I refrained from damning WPP, whose reaction in this affair is all but glorious," he continued. "I know that we don't have the same values, no matter the light we shed on our behaviors."