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Havas London (UK)

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Havas Worldwide's UK subsidiaries include the main advertising agency, Havas London, as well as a small collection of connected marketing services shops. Almost all of these units were combined under a single management team in 2003 as part of the network's "Power of One" strategy, rolled out to consolidate each of its regional businesses. As a result the agency now offers a completely integrated service in the UK, although its constituent units continue to operate separately, while sharing the umbrella brand as well as a single financial structure. Performance has been a little rocky in recent years, resulting in several management changes and restructurings. In late 2015, Havas named Chris Hirst - the widely admired former CEO of Grey London - as CEO of Havas Worldwide Europe and the UK.

Clients

Click here for a Havas Worldwide London client listing from Adbrands Account Assignments

Competitors

See ranking of Leading UK Agencies

Brands & Activities

Havas Worldwide's integrated offering remains strong, even if only comparatively few clients take full advantage of the complete package. Local creative in the UK tends to be workmanlike and unshowy. The agency's output for key client Reckitt Benckiser can sometimes be startlingly basic, although the team can also deliver more impressive or inspired work when called upon to do so.

Virtually all of Havas's UK operations are now housed under a single corporate umbrella. Core of the business is traditional advertising agency Havas London, previously Euro RSCG London. It was known until the start of 2004 as Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, but was rebranded following the departure of headline partners Mark Wnek and Brett Gosper. Performance has remained highly mercurial since then, with significant ups and downs. The agency's least creatively demanding account, Reckitt Benckiser, has also proved to be one of its most successful. That company outperformed rival manufacturers in the latter half of the 2000s, and Euro RSCG was rewarded by a steady increase in advertising expenditure. However, one small crack appeared in the Reckitt account when the Nurofen analgesic brand was farmed out to Mother, who produced a typically stylish campaign for the brand. So far that doesn't seem to have affected the agency's overall hold on the business, although several other RB brands have since moved away.

By the end of 2013, Havas Worldwide ranked as the UK's #16 agency, its lowest ranking in Campaign's annual chart since the end of the 1990s. There has been little significant action on the new business front recently, although the addition to Santander's local roster was a significant victory in 2011. That gain was subsequently squandered with a dismal campaign featuring sporting celebrities Jessica Ennis-Hill and Jenson Button, prompting the loss of the business during 2013. Another poor year in 2014 resulted in the departure of CEO Russ Lidstone, and an effective merger with digital satellite Work Club. For 2015, Nielsen estimated billings of £156m, placing the agency as the local #13. Reckitt remains the biggest client, supported by Citroen and Peugeot, and EDF. Another big account, Birds Eye, was lost in 2016.

Havas Creative Group is the overall umbrella for a collection of other agencies as well. Perhaps the most significant is the digital agency Work Club - now Havas Work Club. The group acquired a 51% shareholding in that business in May 2014, and it has since been integrated into the main agency, with the two businesses working effectively as one. It bought out the 49% it didn't already own in 2016.

In 2010, the main agency absorbed what was then the satellite PR agency Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster in order to be able to offer public relations as part of its integrated offering. In 2015, Havas PR was merged into the local outpost of One Green Bean, an Australian PR agency also owned by Havas.

Havas Helia is the network's data analytics and CRM division. The UK unit was formed in 2015 from what was originally the Brann direct response agency. This went through many different incarnations following its acquisition by Havas, most notably its merger in 2002 with what was then Evans Hunt Scott to form EHS Brann, later EHS 4D from 2010, and then Havas EHS from 2012 until 2015.

Recruitment and educational marketing agency Havas People, formed in 2012 from the merger of what were previously three separate units of Euro RSCG Riley, Euro RSCG Skybridge and educational marketing specialist Euro RSCG Heist. There is also a local office for the network's luxury goods division Havas Luxe.

Separately branded satellites include branding agency Conran Design Group (founded by but no longer associated with Terence Conran), a second corporate communications agency Maitland and social media specialist Cake.

Several Havas-owned units remain outside the Havas Worldwide UK group umbrella. These include the local offices of healthcare group Havas Life, media network Havas Media and Havas Sports. The group also has a minority shareholding in another direct marketing agency, AIS, which reports through Havas Media. In 2016, Havas Media UK acquired local independent TargetMCG, a specialist in film, theatre and exhibition advertising and media.

In 2011, Havas Worldwide's creative flagship in France, BETC launched its own subsidiary office in London, operating separately from Havas Worldwide London. That unit has yet to gain the plaudits its Parisian parent attracts, and suffered a turbulent falling out between its two lead managers in late 2013 leading to their joint departure.

Havas Worldwide London Ltd, which represents just the main advertising agency, reported turnover (billings) of £69.1m in 2014, down 6%, and gross profit (net revenue) of £19.5m, down 16%. Pretax losses widened to £1.96m.

BETC London reported turnover of £7.0m in 2014, down 25% on the year before; and gross profit down 24% to £2.7m. It reported a net loss of £944k.

Background

Euro RSCG's UK presence was created at the beginning of 1992 by the merger of Colman RSCG and Horner Collis Kirvan, respectively the local subsidiaries of France's RSCG and Eurocom, which had themselves merged the previous year. Two other group subsidiaries, FCO Univas and RSCG Madell Wilmot, were absorbed over the next two years, but the agency struggled to forge a united identity until 1994 when it was relaunched by the newly appointed management team of Mark Wnek and Brett Gosper. They succeeded in pushing the renamed as Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper agency to the upper echelons of the UK rankings by the end of the decade, earning an awe-inspiring reputation for winning difficult pitches. The momentum had begun to flag by 2000, although the London agency continued to turn out award-winning work for key clients such as Peugeot, and in 2002 led the network's capture of part of the Reckitt Benckiser global account.

But in 2003, it was all change following the decision by Havas to roll out its Power of One strategy in the UK. The main advertising agency was combined in June that year with eight previously separate Havas-owned businesses to create Euro RSCG Partners. In August, the new group also absorbed Partners BDDH, previously an arm of Havas's Arnold network. Brett Gosper jumped ship mid-year to join McCann Erickson. Mark Wnek briefly became chairman of the new Euro RSCG Partners UK, but resigned in early 2004 to set up his own agency, Ben Mark Orlando, conceived as a partnership with Ben Langdon, former head of McCann Europe. A matter of weeks later, however, Langdon quit the venture to accept Wnek's old job as head of Euro RSCG London. (The start-up promptly shut down again. Wnek took a year off, serving as an advertising columnist for national newspaper The Guardian, before joining Lowe USA in 2005).

Also in 2004, family and lifestages marketer Euro RSCG Bounty, which distributes "new mother" sampling packs, was sold to management, as was the minority stake in direct marketing agency Partners Andrews Aldridge, inherited from BDDH. (PAA was subsequently acquired by WCRS). Group chairman Ben Langdon vowed to boost new business, promising to double revenues by 2007. But despite a good new business performance in the first three quarters of 2005, the agency's net position was dented by several significant losses, including Credit Suisse (later recaptured) and Argos.

Langdon was ousted by Euro RSCG's new worldwide management team in September 2005. A new senior team for the London office was finally appointed in January 2006, with the poaching of Mark Cadman and Russ Lidstone from JWT London. They too were slow to start building new business, although the pace picked up considerably in 2007. Some of this progress unravelled during 2008, with further account defections, including the high profile Hutchison 3 account. Internal disagreements resulted in the abrupt departure of Cadman at the end of the year, leaving Lidstone as sole head of the London agency.

Last full revision 8th April 2016

* Archive page for historical reference only. This profile is no longer being actively updated. See active page here *


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