EDITORIAL: Levy and Mason locked in feud neither can win

Is there no end to the recrimination and no bottom to the poisoned well that fuels the feud between True North and Publicis? The stormy global marriage between the two groups has been followed by a divorce which will be neither quick nor clean. Particularly now that True North has filed a lawsuit to regain the dollars 60 million it claims to be out of pocket because of the split.

Is there no end to the recrimination and no bottom to the poisoned

well that fuels the feud between True North and Publicis? The stormy

global marriage between the two groups has been followed by a divorce

which will be neither quick nor clean. Particularly now that True North

has filed a lawsuit to regain the dollars 60 million it claims to be out

of pocket because of the split.



Quite how this venomous affair will end is anybody’s guess. There are no

precedents for it within the ad industry. Never before have two big

names squared up to each other in such a fashion. To make matters worse,

it has become a deeply personal duel between the main protagonists -

with Maurice Levy, the Publicis chairman, accusing Bruce Mason, his True

North counterpart, of waging a vendetta against him.



In some ways, the dispute is the product of an increasingly vicious and

competitive business environment in which companies, which would once

have simply shrugged their corporate shoulders, no longer shrink from

going to law to seek redress. In advertising, which is built on personal

chemistry, such conflicts often grow very nasty as relationships sour,

commonsense goes out of the window and egos take over.



Whether or not True North can expect to be compensated for an investment

that turned out to be worth less than expected is for a court to decide.

What is certain is that the war has become immensely debilitating for

both parties, diverting the attention of senior executives from the jobs

they should be doing while lawyers’ fees rocket.



Meanwhile, such squabbles may not only foul up long-term plans but cause

nervousness on stock markets and among potential clients which do not

favour companies with protracted legal actions hanging over their

heads.



The best hope is that Mason’s retirement in March opens the way for a

successor with no axe to grind and a determination to end the affair

once and for all. If not, this fight is in danger of a rapid descent

into farce while reinforcing all the outside prejudices against an

industry that can’t quite seem to grow up.



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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).