- What started as conflicting comments at the recent 4A's conference over the J. Walter Thompson (JWT) agency discrimination suit that was filed by an employee against JWT's then-CEO, has now escalated into a heated debate between Publicis CEO Maurice Lévy and WPP (parent company of JWT) CEO Martin Sorrell.
- At the conference Lévy said the event that led to the lawsuit was a one-time incident conducted by one person (ex-JWT CEO Gustavo Martinez), while Sorrell said sexism was pervasive across the ad agency industry.
- The latest response was a memo from Lévy to his employees expressing a commitment to diversity as well as calling Sorrell a hypocrite, as reported by Adweek.
Lévy’s response during the 4A's conference was overshadowed by major female industry players including Facebook’s VP of Global Marketing Solutions Carolyn Everson, DDB North America CEO Wendy Clark, and Nancy Hill, CEO of the 4A's, who all agreed that the issue of diversity was a significant problem facing the industry.
From Lévy’s memo, “As far as Martin Sorrell's comments, I must say that he once again showed his extraordinary level of hypocrisy. I mean, really? This situation began in his company, in one of his largest agencies, with a CEO, therefore someone who is meant to lead by example.”
Adweek obtained a response to Lévy’s memo from a WPP spokesman that called the Publicis executive's previous words "ill-judged" and that it appeared he was trying to back-track.
From the WPP statement: "From what we've seen and heard, his comments, which were publicly reprimanded immediately by Nancy Hill, head of the 4A's, stirred up a hornets' nest, which Levy is now attempting to deal with. Levy is clearly attempting damage limitation for ill-judged remarks at the 4A's Conference. We are glad to hear he is attempting to reverse his original position. After all, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
Mud-slinging aside, the issues of sexism and lack of diversity in the workplace still pervade many industries, and as the women leaders at the 4A's conference pointed out, one that industry heads can't afford to ignore.