Maurice Lévy talks lockdown, Zoom, VivaTech and WeWork

The Drum 01 May 2020 09:30

The chairman of Publicis Groupe’s supervisory board, Maurice Lévy, says he is adapting well to life in lockdown, putting in more than 12 hours of work a day from his Paris home and getting more done than ever without the interruptions and “fancy lunches“ of office life.

Joining The Drum on a video call, he explains that Zoom has been key to how Publicis Groupe now operates, adding that it is a “year of glory“ for the platform. “Never could they have expected to grow this fast.“

As well as video conferencing calls, he says many of those 12 hours a day are spent “working through emails and sharing information through virtual presentations“, and that he is often on the phone to chief exec Arthur Sadoun. “We’re having lots of conversations, sometimes more than once a day.“

The strange situation means making a lot of decisions, he adds. “We are making those decisions together when my advice is needed, but otherwise he is running the show and he is doing it extremely well.“

“It’s heartbreaking because we had prepared for the fifth anniversary a great VivaTech, we were expecting more exhibitors, more innovation than we usually have, and also the commitment of a huge number of startups and the commitment of great speakers.

Last year, VivaTech was visited by 124,000 people and Lévy is aiming to do something just as grand next year. “I hope that we will do it next May or June, but we’re still hesitating a little bit. We have the ambition of meeting the objectives that we have made in the past though. We will create something that is astounding in order that people feel rewarded having waited so much time.”

“[The job at] WeWork was to help put the marketing and communication work together with the support of Publicis,” he explains. “It was a temporary job.”

“But obviously, the coronavirus on top of the problems it already has is not helping. When you have social distancing, and when the approach of WeWork is collaboration, there is a whole other layer of difficulty. But the proposition is a great one, the management team is great, and I believe that it would have got out of the mud much earlier than expected had it not been faced with the coronavirus.“

Asked if he would take on a CMO role at a business again, he dodges the question. But he does say he is involved already in companies including YCOR – a tech venture business he founded with his sons – and the Brain Institute in Paris, which he co-founded alongside 11 other entrepreneurs. He calls it one of the top facilities in Europe for researching neurological diseases after only a decade.

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