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CANNES — It was the tweet heard around the world, and now Publicis CEO Maurice Levy has valued Ellen DeGeneres‘ Oscar selfie at between $800 million and $1 billion, he told a crowd at MIPTV.
Levy’s Publicis Groupe, the Paris-based global advertising and marketing behemoth, handles international marketing for Samsung. He valued the Oscar photo of host DeGeneres with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey and others at the large sum because of its massive sharing on social media.
The tweet was seen by 37 million people worldwide, according to Twitter numbers. In contrast, 43 million viewers tuned in to the broadcast to see the Samsung snap. Levy said that the product placement was handled by his team.
Levy also took credit for President Barack Obama‘s controversial selfie: “This is something we did for Samsung. It’s us. The two selfies that are so famous — the one with all the actors at the Oscars and the second with President Obama — the two were done by our team.”
He refused however to go into detail on how that now-infamous photo came about. When queried if Obama or his team were given the phone for the photo Levy answered: “No, but we did it with someone else who took the picture with Barack Obama. But I won’t give you the recipe,” he said. Boston Red Sox baseball player David “Big Papi” Ortiz has declined to say if he was paid. When pressed again Levy demurred: “For us it is business. This is a TV conference.”
Levy also addressed the merging of advertising and television production to the assembled producers and buyers. Publicis created a film-like 3 1/2 minute commercial for luxury brand Cartier that aired only once on France’s TF1, but was viewed more than 60 million times on YouTube. At a time when traditional TV networks are bleeding ad money, numbers like that hurt.
He called television production and advertising production “faux amis” — French for “false friends” — and said the crossover is simply more transparent now than it was before. “Producers and directors have their independence and they do their work in their way, but at the same time we see a lot of directors that are doing TV series or movies for the big screen who are directing advertising. There is a long list of great directors that have shot commercials. We’ve always had that kind of relationship without entering into each other’s space,” he said. “But today we are co-producers and sometimes executive producers and all this is for the brand, for our clients.”
Not that it is all so bleak. Both advertisers and television producers are facing common challenges as they fight for eyeballs and figure out how to reach consumers that divide their time among multiple devices. “I don’t think the world is an ‘or,’ ” he said, referring to content consumers spending more time with one screen or another. With creative content coming from both advertising and television production “the world is an ‘and.’ ” He added, “There is an infinite number of possibilities with interactive.”
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