Talent agency Creative Artists Agency was the subject of a derisive advertising blitz by rival William Morris Endeavor on Tuesday.
Dozens of ads installed at the Westfield Century City mall featured the word "CAAN'T" in Creative Artists Agency's signature red-and-white color scheme. "CAAN'T," of course, is a playful nod to the CAA acronym.
Individuals with knowledge of the matter confirmed that WME was responsible for the advertisements, which were also plastered elsewhere in Los Angeles. Beverly Hills-based WME declined to comment.
The ads reference a May 13 item in the New York Post's Page Six column, which insinuated that a CAA client was unhappy with his or her representation. The piece read: "Which recently nominated Oscar director loudly groused in a high-level meeting about being frustrated with his Hollywood agency by yelling: 'They should be called Caan't! Caan't, Caan't, Caan'ttttttt!'?"
The WME campaign extended to the Internet, where the website caant.com includes an image of the Page Six column item and the "CAAN'T" logo.
CAA's 2000 Avenue of the Stars headquarters is located around the corner from the mall, making it a popular destination for agents. The ads attracted attention at the property on Tuesday, with several people stopping to photograph and discuss them.
CAA and WME, Hollywood's two biggest agencies as measured by the size of their client and agent rosters, are fierce rivals. The companies compete for business, often signing away each other's clients. In January, for example, WME signed Oprah Winfrey, who had long been represented by CAA. Last week "Arrested Development" creator Mitch Hurwitz left WME for CAA.
CAA did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment.
There is a history over the years of Hollywood players using advertisements to poke fun at or ridicule their rivals or enemies. Tony Kaye, director of the 1998 film "American History X," took out full-page ads in trade publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter to protest his loss of creative control of that film.
Kaye got into a spat with production company New Line Cinema over the editing of the Edward Norton Jr. film. According to a 1998 Los Angeles Times story, one Kaye ad that ran in Variety quoted a John Lennon lyric: "Everybody's hustlin' for a buck and a dime, I'll scratch your back and you knife mine."
Westfield Group, owner of the mall, did not return a phone call seeking comment.