WPP's Sorrell Calls Publicis' Levy an "Amateur"

Last Updated Jul 20, 2009 5:34 PM EDT

WPP chief Martin Sorrell and Publicis boss Maurice Levy took their famous rivalry to the BBC World Service where they faced off in a "debate" about advertising.

For the plebs, the show was a news-free discussion about whether advertising was good for democracy, or really, really good for democracy. But for industry folk, the real issue was, Will Sorrell and Levy spend any of their airtime insulting and undermining each other like teenage girls?

We weren't disappointed. While the pair were good humored and stuck to the topic at hand, Sorrell in particular managed to work in a few digs, at one point calling Levy an "amateur." Levy was at a disadvantage given that he was fighting in English and not his native tongue, French, and he asked the host of the show to "protect" him from Sorrell trying to talk over him.

Here's a digest of the highlights. The caveat is that these few seconds were cherry-picked from an hour of talk that was otherwise uneventful. When the debate turned to the size of agency holding conglomerates:
Sorrell: I don't like the word conglomerate, horrible, horrible. Levy: Martin is really sitting on top of a very large, huge company we are just a small one. Sorrell (sarcastically): The French amateur! The host: How many do you employ, Mr. Levy? Levy: 45,000. Host: Tiny!
When Levy found it hard to get a word in edgeways:
Levy: I'm just a Frenchman here, you have to take care of myself otherwise I will be trespassed by Sir Martin ...
The debate turned to Hollywood's dominance of world culture, and Sorrel used it to invoke a previous debating triumph he had over Levy at Davos:
Levy: Despite the greatness of Hollywood there was a kind of rejection of the idea of America, after selling the brands we will sell each culture to everyone -- Sorrell: We had that debate in Davos [where] somebody googled the top 10 films in France and they were all American blockbusters, it was quite a merry occasion!

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