Levy challenges ad industry

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[naples, fla.] Maurice Levy, chairman-CEO of Paris-based holding company Publicis Groupe, in a strongly worded speech to the American Association of Advertising Agencies challenged the industry's most popular buzzword.

"I declare that integrated marketing communications is faulty in practice if not in concept," he said. Many agencies talk about integrated offerings, he told the 4A's Marketing Conference April 19, but they continue to focus primarily on traditional media advertising, with other disciplines playing a secondary role.

"In the service of integration, a group of diverse communications specialists are drawn together to build their plans around a pre-defined advertising concept," he said, an approach he likened to "trying to reassemble a broken egg from its pieces." The better approach, he said, is best defined by the old Young & Rubicam "whole-egg" philosophy.

Mr. Levy said Publicis has coined a new catchphrase, "holistic marketing."

"Holism leads to a creative process that is no longer advertising centric," he said. "This does not imply an end to specialist capabilities. It does require a more evolved way of deploying them. It's about finding the smartest solution from the start, even if it is surprising and unexpected."

Interviewed after his speech, Mr. Levy said that the Publicis agency network already takes that approach. But he acknowledged that a second Publicis Groupe network, Saatchi & Saatchi, does not follow the model. Agency executives applauded Mr. Levy's speech but several said that they are already offering clients the type of approach Mr. Levy described under the integrated marketing banner.

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