CEO Late For Dinner

Last week at the Cannes Lions advertising festival, sorry, “International Festival of Creativity”, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer had a bit of a tough time. First, she gave an on-stage presentation that some are saying was too ‘hard sell’ — telling the ad executives in attendance what they wanted to hear, without actually saying anything genuine. Okay.

Then, Mayer headed to a conference held by WPP, the reigning king of all ad companies. There, she was interviewed on stage by none other than WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell. The interview apparently did not go well in some aspects, at least according to what a tipster told Business Insider and also what we’ve heard. We are also hearing that the Business Insider story is not entirely accurate, misrepresenting certain key details of that interview.

That Tuesday evening, Mayer had an appointment to attend a dinner put on by Interpublic Group, meeting with executives representing the brands that are Yahoo’s advertising customers. Brands like Chobani, Mondolez and MillerCoors (one word). But Mayer was late — about an hour and a half late.

The Wall Street Journal offers this explanation:

But Ms. Mayer was nearly two hours late, and several dinner attendees including  IPG Chief Executive Michael Roth ended up leaving before she arrived, people familiar with the matter said.

Ms. Mayer told some attendees that she had fallen asleep, some of the people familiar with the matter said. As someone who has also fallen asleep before a dinner, this seems like a reasonable explanation.

Yahoo of course would not comment, but here is our two cents: CEOs are sometimes late. Sometimes it’s because people won’t stop asking them for things, sometimes it’s because they’ve done meetings for five hours straight, sometimes it’s because they’re in a time zone that’s nine hours forward from the one they’re usually in. And sometimes it’s because they’re freaked out after an unpredictably difficult interview.

It is weird that this is a Wall Street Journal story. It reminds us of the time Mark Zuckerberg showed up to his IPO road show in a hoodie and set the banking world on its axis. Oh the fun that was!

Would a similar story about Google CEO Larry Page being late to a dinner get the same amount of play? I hope so, but it hasn’t yet, though I’m sure he’s been late at least once. Perhaps if Page wore a hoodie?

Beyond the obvious gender argument, what we’ve got here is a culture clash: Wall Street expects deference, Madison Avenue expects reverence. When what they get from Palo Alto, or Mountain View or SOMA, is human weakness or even straight-forwardness they walk (or leak).

Someone was late in France: Ring the alarm.

Image via Enskat Associates