Emily Tan
Feb 13, 2014

Will Havas WW's lack of APAC leadership take its toll?

SINGAPORE – After a little more than a year, Havas Worldwide’s Southeast Asia CEO, Naomi Troni, has left the role and the region.

Troni leavs the SEA lead role after just over a year
Troni leavs the SEA lead role after just over a year

Formerly global CMO for the network, Troni’s appointment in the fall of 2012 was viewed as unusual, and a source has commented that her departure implies a “failed experiment”.

At present Havas WW remains uncertain about Troni’s position in the company, and her duties have reverted to Dan Gibson, Singapore group MD. The agency said it is not searching for a new SEA lead.

Looking beyond Troni’s departure, Havas Worldwide Asia-Pacific may have a deeper problem in its ongoing lack of a strong locally based regional leader. Renuka Jaypal, the CEO of SEA before Troni, also left after about a year. And Matt Fanshawe the last MD of then EuroRSCG Asia-Pacific left Singapore for London in 2012. While the region is technically helmed by Asia-Pacific chairman Juan Rocamora, he remains based in Paris and is also CEO of Southern Europe.

When coupled with the recent departure of David Jones as global CEO, these facts start to raise questions about the network’s cohesiveness and commitment to the region.

"Havas’ challenge in Asia is to scale to the heights of the holding companies, who admittedly have had longer, but have certainly built more robust management bases," said Greg Paull, principal with R3.

Darren Woolley, head of marketing consultancy TrinityP3, agreed. “If a network was serious about Asia they would have someone on the ground heading up the region,” he said.

There is, Woolley continued, a marked difference in the success of agencies that have had long-term leaders in Asia-Pacific and those that haven’t. “Much is determined by the strength and character of the senior management," he said. "One of the reasons DDB has been so strong in Asia is John Zeigler, he’s given the group real stability. Ogilvy has also benefited from having a global CEO, Miles Young, who once headed Asia.”

After Fanshawe’s departure, EuroRSCG/Havas Worldwide opted to divide Asia-Pacific into sub-regions, such as Southeast Asia and Greater China, helmed by CEOs who led the region alongside local MDs.

“What you have now is an agency that’s a network but isn’t acting like one,” Woolley said. This could ultimately damage the agency’s ability to participate in global or regional pitches where reliability and consistency are traits that MNC clients look for.

“When the Havas group opted to have its media and creative agencies work closer together, that was a great idea," he said. "But without strong local leadership, the results vary from market to market. They may still pick up local business but will struggle to land anything bigger."


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