Gideon Spanier
Jun 18, 2024

Havas pushes integration with new ‘Converged’ strategy and invests $429.3 million in AI and tech

French agency group’s moves come ahead of possible stock market float.

Yannick Bolloré, the chief executive of Havas, speaking at Cannes Lions
Yannick Bolloré, the chief executive of Havas, speaking at Cannes Lions

Havas plans to roll out a group-wide operating system to drive further integration between its agencies as part of a new “Converged” strategy.  

Yannick Bolloré, the chief executive of Havas, speaking at Cannes Lions, said it was an “evolution” of its previous “Together” strategy that was launched in 2013 to encourage internal collaboration.

The group operating system is based on an existing media planning  system, called Converged, which has been developed by Havas Media since 2020 and “has demonstrated its efficiency in recent years” for clients.

It will now be rolled out across the group’s agencies – including Havas Creative and Havas Health – with the aim of giving them access to “transparent, cross-platform audience planning” and better measurement.

Clients, such as KFC and Sanofi, have already been using the tool, which is “super-charged by AI, data and tech but still powered by humans”, Bolloré told Campaign.

“It’s not an operating system or tool that will replace our people. It’s a tool that will make our people and make us even more creative.”  

Havas is also increasing its investments in AI and other marketing technology and data to $429.3 million over the next four years, mirroring earlier moves by larger rivals Publicis Groupe and WPP to invest in AI since the start of 2024.

Bolloré said Havas will spend the additional money on a mix of organic investments and acquisitions and it is equivalent to $107.3 miilion a year – up from $64.4 million previously, as Havas spent about $644 million over the past decade.

“It’s not BS, as our friend [Arthur Sadoun] put it,” Bolloré added, referring to the CEO of Publicis Groupe, who recently called on the ad industry to “take the BS out of AI”.

Havas’ strategy update comes as Vivendi, the parent company, prepares for a potential stock market flotation of the agency group as a separate business.

Bolloré said: “Our new Converged strategy will build even more bridges between creativity, media, production and technology than ever before. 

“We are building a model that is future-thought, agnostic in terms of data and tech partnerships and perfectly interoperable with our clients’ systems, to meet their needs even more swiftly and cost effectively.”

Working to drive greater collaboration “every day”

Havas, the smallest of the big six agency groups, moved earlier than most of its competitors to simplify its model by merging some agencies and bringing them together in single locations, dubbed Havas Villages, during the 2010s.

“We’ve worked extremely closely for many years and we’re very integrated,” Donna Murphy, the chief executive of Havas Creative and Havas Health, said, sitting alongside Peter Mears, the chief executive of Havas Media, in a joint interview at Havas Cafe in Cannes (pictured above). “The exciting thing is our tools are much more integrated now, including the data.” 

Havas uses a mix of its own data, client data and third-party sources. Unlike some of its rivals, which have bought large data businesses, Havas has preferred “to invest in technology to help us manage data, rather than investing purely in data sets”, Mears said. “Our strategy was to build and rent, not buy.”

Some agency groups have struggled with integration and Mears acknowledged: “Collaboration is an easy thing to talk about but a very difficult reality to create and foster. You need common process, common technology, common tools and a common structure and culture. It’s not a ‘one and done’ – you have to work on it every day.”

Murphy noted that it is “much easier to work in silos” and shared “incentivisation” across the group has been key to collaboration. Remuneration for Havas staff at all levels is based on one P&L, she said.

Campaign UK

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