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French Lesson

Americans haven’t taken too kindly of late to criticism from our long-time pals and antagonists of the French persuasion. But put down those Freedom Fries and listen up. Maurice Levy, the hyper-charming CEO of Publicis, the big French advertising giant, had a gentle suggestion about the dangers of always seeing the world through red, white and blue glasses: “Do not assume that what works for the U.S. always works in the rest of the world,” he said, during an on-stage conversation with Charlie Rose yesterday during Advertising Week in New York.

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It’s not that Levy doesn’t understand Americans’ tendency toward myopia. Chauvinism, after all, was invented by the French. Since nearly 75% of global companies are based in the U.S., and 50% of profits of most of these companies derive from American sales, it’s natural that we should be a little, uh, self-involved. Still, he said, “maybe people in the rest of the world would like to be respected for who we are and where we come from,” when it comes to marketing messages.

It’s a message that Keith Reiinhard, worldwide CEO of DDB, has been evangelizing in the ad industry for a year. But it’s a point well -taken. In an increasingly globalized world, especially one in which Brand America is not viewed with the enthusiasm it once evoked, a little humility goes a long way.

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