Describe Havas London in three words:
people x planet x profit.
What makes you unique?
We’re the only major UK advertising agency to share a single building with every other specialist business in our network, all under a single P&L. Sitting within the Havas Village in King’s Cross affords us some clear advantages; none more so than our ability to build bespoke, flexible, multi-discipline teams around our clients, whatever their business need. These are not teams that are together on paper alone, but teams physically, culturally, logistically and financially aligned. This set-up, alongside our partnership with Vivendi and companies including Universal Music Group, Canal+, StudioCanal and Gameloft, allows us to complement – not replicate – our specialisms.
Tell us something we don’t know about Havas London?
We use rainwater to flush our toilets. 💧 🚽
It’s just one of the small things that collectively helped us to become the first major advertising agency to achieve B Corporation certification – joining a global movement of pioneering companies using business as a force for good. To certify, we met rigorous standards of accountability, transparency, and social and environmental performance, as well as legally placing impact on people and planet alongside profit in any decision we make. We certified in 2018 – and while this remains a competitive advantage for us, it’s one we’d rather we didn’t have.
Something else we’d rather not have is carbon emissions – which is why we’ve also committed to reaching net zero by 2025. That ambitious target isn’t specific to Havas London, but across the entire Havas Group, globally.
What work are you most proud of?
Despite everything the past year threw at us, our best work – led by Creative Person of the Year Vicki Maguire – continued to drive positive change, including:
Proudly tackling outdated and regressive norms with Durex. Building on the launch of new brand platform ‘Challenge the Norms’ and the mid-pandemic ‘Let’s Not Go Back to Normal’, we embedded positive, powerful LGBTQ+ representation across all comms and tackled taboos around anal sex, female pleasure and female sexual discomfort.
Supporting a nation of teachers and home-schoolers with the Department of Education.
Helping people reach net zero with EDF, underlining the fact that unlike many of its historical and start-up rivals, EDF is actually generating zero carbon electricity at scale, not just selling it.
Supporting hard-hit pubs with Carling.
Raising awareness of the mental health crisis on the COVID front line with the Laura Hyde Foundation.
And tackling the posthumous discrimination of Britain’s Black heroes with The Black Plaque Project. The ongoing initiative aims to commemorate the rich, diverse contributions of Black people throughout history through a series of black plaques across London – against a backdrop of just 1% representation across London’s official blue plaques.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
It’s a challenge we’ve shared with our clients and, well, everyone else in the UK in some way, shape or form over the past 12 months: driving blind. A volatile landscape has led to much shorter visibility, and that’s meant we’ve had to fundamentally adapt our approach. Relatively speaking, answering the brief is the easy bit. What’s more difficult is shaping your organisation to be ready for that brief without knowing when it’s coming, what it will look like or even which disciplines it will require. You can’t plan resource by crystal ball, but you can’t afford to have people – as much for their sake as the businesses’ – sitting on their hands ‘just in case’ either.
What are you doing to transform the way you work with clients?
This is where the Havas Village comes into its own. Of course, many holding companies have similarly co-located numerous agencies under one roof since Havas began pioneering the model in 2012 (and particularly since we did so in London in 2017) – but the ability to create a scalable, genuinely fluid model based on shifting needs relies not just on how you structure yourself, but fundamentally how you behave.
Large, expensive, dedicated teams are out; a new breed of progressive account leads who are much more intimately attuned to their clients’ business needs and challenges are in. These discipline-agnostic leaders are crucial in helping clients access relevant, varied expertise from any discipline, faster and without friction, where and when it’s needed – and releasing it just as fast when it isn’t.
For this approach to be effective requires access to a genuine breadth and depth of specialist expertise. It also requires an innate spirit of collaboration, not competition – which is why we’ve deliberately assembled only one specialist agency per discipline, across the entire marketing mix, under our overarching P&L.
Facilitating this kind of agile resourcing and ease of access to deep wells of specialist talent works much harder for clients, but also for agencies – who can get the right people to the point of need quicker and more often.
If you could give clients one piece of advice what would it be?
Challenge your agencies to roll up their sleeves and drive the growth of your business – not just answer a campaign brief. The less that agencies (and marketing teams!) are pigeonholed, the bigger impact they will have on your bottom line.
How are you future-proofing?
We’re investing in our customer experience capabilities (see also: Havas CX) and blurring the lines between it and brand advertising (see also: Xavier Rees, CEO of both Havas London and Havas CX helia). Unlike some, we’re also committed to maintaining specialist centres of gravity, while maximising the number of ‘multilingual’ people able to knit these disciplines together with ease.
Marketing predictions for the next year?
With the demise of the high street, many brands have lost their shop windows – literally. As such, 2021 will see a return to major investment in brand-level comms, with awareness and salience needed like never before. This won’t come at the expense of the spend that was redirected towards CX last year – this is now very much table stakes – but it doesn’t matter how good your digital experience is if no one is thinking of you in the first place.
Best kept secret for Friday drinks (this can be how you’re virtually winding down the week or what you can’t wait for when we’re all back in the office)?
As pubs begin to re-open after one hell of a long winter, we can’t do better than to echo our campaign for Carling and say: support your local. In fact, support your local communities full stop. They need you.
See more from Havas London here on our website.