They're both men of stature, physically and professionally. The very tall heads of Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe, John Wren and Maurice Levy, have been running the No. 2 and No. 3 ad firms by revenue for years.
Also in common has been their desire to outdo WPP CEO Martin Sorrell (which they arguably just pulled off, with their agreement to merge Publicis Groupe and Omnicom Group and supplant WPP as the largest marketing services company in the world with $23 billion in revenues).
But that's where their similarities seem to end. Their management styles have always been different as their approaches to running a holding company. Consider their positions historically on the matter of the one of the primary concerns for any marketer today -- best-in-class digital marketing. While Mr. Levy has spent billions snapping up massive companies like Digitas, Razorfish, Rosetta, LBI and Rokkan, Mr. Wren stood on the sidelines and told Wall Street that Omnicom would prefer to build digital organically versus buying it.
Their approaches to business could stem from their differences culturally. For two men who just became co-CEOs, committing to jointly running one ad giant for the next 30 months, they come from very different backgrounds. We take a look.
Born: 1942 in Morocco
Education: Studied computer science at New Jersey City University.
Early Career: IT. Ran Publicis' computer system.
Interests: Medicine; at one point he thought he might be a surgeon. Also passionate about peace in the Middle East.
Defining Moment: When a devastating fire overtook the Paris headquarters of Publicis in the 1970's, Mr. Levy risked his life to rush back into his office and save the company's computer files on magnetic tape. That heroic act and initiative was the first indication to Publicis founder Marcel Bleustein Blanchet that he may have found his eventual successor.
Management Style: Given the Publicis name is an institution and highly-recognized in France -- after all, it's got prime real estate on the Champs-Elysses and a drugstore, restaurant and movie theatre on the ground floor open to the public-- the value of the holding company's brand has always been important. It's also the same name as one of the biggest ad agencies under the Groupe umbrella, which again makes the brand equity of the holding company something Mr. Levy has always relied upon. Rather than merely a corporate conglomerate, Mr. Levy has used the cultural significance of Publicis and its founder Marcel Bleustein Blanchet to guide the company. And those values --along with a good dose of charm, something Mr. Levy is well known for -- are part of what he's used to attract the string of big digital companies he's acquired into the fold.
Long-Term Career Plans: His stay atop Publicis has been lengthening for many years; there's long been talk of him retiring and pressure from the board to need to find a successor to his role. One never materialized until the merger. He admits to being a workaholic, and with his latest move to merge with Omnicom, Mr. Levy ensures he'll be at the company -- in a chairman role at least -- till at least about 75.
Home: Paris, with weekends at a country home in Provence.
Family: Three sons, been married to his wife since he was 21.