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.

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.