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India Is A Very Important Place For Us To Invest: Yannick Bolloré, Chairman & CEO, Havas Group

Bolloré spoke about India’s growing relevance for the group, the concept of collaboration through its village model and the need to re-imagine the agency structure in a fast-changing world.

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After acquiring a majority stake in the Havas Group last year (almost 95 per cent), Yannick Bolloré, Chairman & CEO, Havas Group has his eyes set on the immense opportunities that the Indian market offers. 

Bolloré spoke about India’s growing relevance for the group, the concept of collaboration through its village model and the need to re-imagine the agency structure in a fast-changing world.

When asked about what excites him about the Indian market and what kind of potential he sees in terms of business here, Bolloré said, “India is a country full of opportunities and for us it is a very important place to invest. It is a country with a culture of innovation. India is also a country with the highest Facebook and WhatsApp users and has a great sporting culture like cricket etc, and when it comes to the cinema it is the number one movie producing country in the world. So for us, we have no other option than to be present in this country.  We also have the mandate to take the acquisition of three new companies, so we will multiply by three the number of Havas people in the coming months.” 

Bolloré also spoke about the village concept, a collaborative model which seeks to foster deeper engagement among agency teams and make agencies more agile and efficient.

“I took over as Havas CEO in August 2013, we were not as big as we are today, we were only 15,000 colleagues around the world at that time. There was also a complex agency structure with creative on one side, media on the other, digital and mobile on yet another side; everyone was working in silos and there was less team interaction.  So I came up with a model that was more efficient, more agile and easy to work with, and it meant combining all the different people and integrating them. The results were amazing; two after implementing this strategy, Havas has had the best commercial performance in the entire industry.”

The fact that everybody is trying to bring different agency functions under one roof, it has often become difficult for agencies to reinvent and become truly integrated. Responding to how this challenge can be addressed Bolloré said, “In my experience, every situation is different. There is no magic wand and there is no secret formula, it requires a lot of passion and a lot of pragmatism. I think creating a culture is very important and I think it’s very important to find creative ways of being financed.”

In an age where consumers are becoming more cynical about advertising, Bolloré spoke about how agencies could recast content to make messaging more receptive. 

“The kind of content that is being produced today is huge, there is a recent report which states than 40 million hours of content is uploaded on YouTube and other social media platforms every day.  So there are two ways of seeing it: one as a challenge where it is leading to saturation, but I see this new paradigm and this new reality as a great opportunity.”

“We understand consumers better than any other industry in the world and this deep knowledge about consumers and content gives us an opportunity to produce engaging content. So I see this over fragmented media world as a big opportunity and I look at the future of our industry with great excitement,” added Bolloré.

Responding to a question about data-led insights and human creativity and the interplay between the two, Bolloré said, “Before we arrive at the stage of creativity, we go through the stage of strategy. So to have a great creative idea, there has to be a good strategy in place and to put this strategy together you have to use data. We are investing in data and research and data is key to our job and when we advise clients there is a lot of data behind that.”

Speaking about Vivendi (the parent company of Universal Music Group and Canal Plus Group) and how he sees music working for Havas, Bolloré said, “We are the world leaders in the music industry. In India, if you move away from the movie industry, we are the number one. It is very interesting to note what happened to the music industry. Remember in 1999-2000 when Steve Jobs had invented the iPhone, the piracy had started. Between 2000 and 2016, for 17 years in a row, there was a decline in revenues and a loss of 50 percent of the value of the music industry. What is interesting is that during those years at Vivendi, we still believed that music had a future.”

“Together with Havas we are doing many things because advertising and music are both part of culture, entertainment and I think the future of advertising lies with the entertainment industry,” added Bolloré.

(Yannick Bolloré, Chairman & CEO, Havas Group spoke to Vani Gupta Dandia, Co-Founder and CEO, Benddit at the recently held CEO Power Evening hosted by BW Businessworld)

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