David Blecken
Sep 25, 2014

The industry as a village: Yannick Bolloré

SPIKES ASIA - Opening proceedings for Day Two, Havas chairman and chief executive Yannick Bolloré explained his company’s positioning as an agency that can offer a superior level of service through a close alignment of creative and media services.

Yannick Bolloré
Yannick Bolloré

Please see all of our Spikes Asia 2014 coverage here

Bolloré noted that the industry is still typically split into three silos—creative, media and digital. The rebranding of Euro RSCG and MPG under the Havas banner was an effort to bring those entities together and work better for clients, he said.

Although Bolloré admitted the initial meetings between the divisions under Havas were akin to the bloodthirsty Game of Thrones, 25 so-called “Havas Villages” have since come into being, including in Singapore. He said the company has also doubled the pace of its acquisitions, having made seven since January.

He made the following observations based on his experience:

  • The industry should not be afraid of cannibalisation, as Kodak was when it invented the digital camera. “We should not think in those terms,” he said. “We should think the customer will always get what he wants.”
  • Scale is not necessarily an asset, especially when trying to change direction. With 16,000 staff, Havas is relatively small, and that made restructuring it easier than it might have been were it larger. “In boxing, it’s not the fattest that wins, but the fittest,” he said.
  • At the same time, acquisitions have proved valuable for expanding reach—but only when they also add know-how to the organisation.
  • Media is becoming as important as the message when it comes to the impact of a campaign.
  • Always aim to innovate, and focus on innovation rather than technology. “It’s much broader,” he said.

Campaign’s observation: Although very Havas-centric, the session offered some ideas as to the changes a network can make to serve its clients more effectively. We expect to see much more of Bolloré given the challenges (and room for growth) that Havas Worldwide in particular faces here.

In a brief interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific following his presentation, Bolloré said he was optimistic for the future of Havas Worldwide in Asia-Pacific, where the network has struggled of late.

The agency recently promoted Levent Guenes to Southeast Asia chief operating officer after the abrupt departure of chief executive Naomi Troni at the end of last year. Bolloré oversees Asia-Pacific as a whole from Europe. Asia accounts for 10 per cent of the agency's global footprint and posted growth of 12 per cent in the first half of the year, he said.

"I would say Asia is becoming again an engine of growth and profit for Havas," he noted, adding that this was his fifth trip to the region since assuming leadership of the network this year. Two-thirds of Havas Worldwide's business in Asia is local, he said.

"We're trying our best to enhance the creative work of Havas in Asia and I'm confident that in the near future we will see results," Bolloré said. "What's important is that clients understand all the benefits of working with Havas—as an integrated group that allows a more agile and forward-thinking approach in our communications."

Bolloré said he was addressing the region with a long-term view. "We are ambitious when we talk about Asia," he said. "We aim to be best-in-class in every category. We have the means, we have the will, and there is no reason we won't succeed."


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