Kara Swisher

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Yahoo’s Levinsohn Strategy Gets Some Lionizing in Cannes by P&G

Even if the board of Yahoo is taking its sweet time in naming him as permanent CEO — and it is as it conducts what appears to be a serious search effort to find the unicorn leader it has never found yet — the media-focused strategy of its interim CEO Ross Levinsohn was getting some love from a big advertiser in France at the Cannes Lions creative festival this week.

In a panel discussion at the event yesterday with Publicis Groupe Chairman Maurice Lévy and Mark Pritchard, the top marketing exec for consumer goods powerhouse Procter & Gamble, the man who would be lion-haired king of Yahoo talked about the Silicon Valley Internet giant, but first had to listen to the obvious joke about fake resumes.

That was an it-must-be-said Levy reference to the just ousted Yahoo Scott Thompson, who lost his job because of a faux computer science degree on his bio. (Communications major Levinsohn has none on his, which is entirely accurate.)

The discussion soon moved into what it would take to right Yahoo, which prompted Levinsohn to point out the need for careful change while still keeping up traditions.

“Any company which has been around for sometime has a lineage and that held true for Yahoo as well,” he said.

Yes, we know, everyone bleeds purple at Yahoo — but it’s the constant bleeding part that has been worrisome. In fact, at this point, it is a wonder Yahoo has any blood left at all.

In a related vein (get it?), Levinsohn later compared Yahoo to a boxer, noting that a good one can survive various setbacks and can win from there.

(Now I am going to have to spend the weekend, trying to figure out if Yahoo is in “Rocky IV” — the one with the scary Soviet killer — or “Rocky V,” in which he went back to his roots as a poor dude with that idiotic hat.)

But it was Pritchard who gave Levinsohn a needed boost, noting, in part, “a successful Yahoo is good for P&G, as well as the industry.”

Putting in a plug for Levinsohn’s clear preference for a strategic direction toward content and not so much tech at Yahoo, Pritchard also added that solid media offerings online would be the key to success in the future with big-spending companies like his.

“Technology can be matched but not creativity,” he said. “What I see Yahoo as is a technology-driven media company.”

Hear that from the guy with the pile of money to spend, Yahoo directors?

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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”