Time to pop some bottles!
On March 1, Havas PR turned 40 years old, marking four decades of transformative solutions, charitable giving, and forward momentum. The global collective is commemorating this major milestone with a year-long celebration, starting with a pledge to donate $400k in pro bono services to worthwhile organizations.
We spoke with Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas PR North America and chair of the Havas PR Global Collective, along with local teams from around the world, to learn how this middle-aged collective stays young and innovative.
The Mag: What does 40 years mean to you?
MS: It means history, authenticity, bruises, growth spurts, some wrinkles, and lots and lots of real-world and whole-world experience. It also means that despite all our merging and purging, reinventing and renaming, we are middle-aged with the savvy and the sass to behave more cougar than complacent.
The Mag: What are you most proud of in your 40 years?
MS: I would say the metrosexual moment—make that the metrosexual explosion—back in 2003 (Word of the Year, anyone?) is a biggie. It led to our second big one, also back when we were in our 20s, when we hooked up with André and Big Boi and got the whole modern world shaking like a Polaroid picture. We shook it up so much that Polaroid made us issue a press release saying: please don’t shake the pictures.
The Mag: How has Havas PR managed to stay young and continue to innovate?
MS: Young means a rush of newness, and we have stayed new by reinventing ourselves early and often. Constant reinvention—with initiatives like our Baker’s Dozen, SocialProvidence, our border states thought leadership, embracing the “local” trend, and lots more—means we stay shiny. Our critics might argue that we are in a permanent midlife crisis, but I prefer to think that we never met an innovation we didn’t want to embrace: native advertising, borderless communications, millennial marketing. You name it, and we dabble in it, hug it close, and keep on sampling the new and the next. We love trendy pop culture moments and chase those brands we believe are just at the cusp.
The Mag: Tell us about your entrepreneurial culture.
MS: Fearlessness and risk-taking are at the heart of our culture. Small is the new big, and we bundle small experiments together to enjoy the biggest bangs. We also recruit and hire people who treat Havas like their own business.
The Mag: Tell us a bit about the Lofts program at Havas PR. What benefits have participants and agencies experienced?
MS: PR is a collective and a virtual village, and each year, we trade people for a week or two to dive deeply into a sibling agency. A few years ago, New York welcomed Jonathan Welsh, associate director of Havas PR UK, Manchester. This year he is organizing a little Loft in Manchester, while New York hosts someone on his team. Here’s what he has to say:
“The Lofts program benefitted me enormously on a personal and professional level. Working with Havas PR New York, I got the opportunity to see first hand how content wasn’t just a buzzword in its infancy, it was an opportunity to use social media as the glue to bridge the gap between an organization’s values and its media reputation. What stood out for me was the way Havas PR had such little regard for traditional boundaries between channels; there was a passion from all involved that ideas in the new social context could break those barriers down and change perceptions and behaviours. I also met some great people across different parts of the agency, including health, corporate, and consumer. I came away a fully fledged convert to the power of a collective, and I’ve lived by that mantra ever since, as I now work with 10 Havas PR partners across the globe on a world-leading brand—all thanks to the power of the connected Havas PR team.”
The Mag: What other culture initiatives make Havas PR a great place to work?
MS: A sense of belonging to something big, a lack of hierarchies, constant crazy requests (anyone up for a week in Haiti, Tallahassee, or Tokyo?), and training on the job that forces each one of us to grow and change as the world does. Plus, with thought leadership at our core, we get the chance to look in-depth at current (or future) topics, from the culture of food and global consumer conscientiousness to love in the age of social media.
The Mag: What are you looking forward to in the next 40 years?
MS: Health, wealth, and news well crafted.
Some Historical Highlights
- March 1, 1976
- Our predecessor agency is incorporated.
- Summer 2010
- Wyclef Jean’s campaign for president of Haiti puts us into the PR stratosphere, launching a streak of award-winning work, with a billion-plus media impressions across the globe.
- January 2012
- We win our first global account with Coty Inc.
- September 2012
- Previously known as Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, we are officially rebranded as Havas PR to better communicate our relationship with Havas.
- October 2012
- Our Pittsburgh office and the community partnership we created won the bid to host the third One Young World (first in the U.S.), in 2013.
- The Global PR Collective wins nine Cannes Lions (second only to a company at least twice our size globally).
- Havas PR partners with the United Nations Foundation to help change the narrative around the science of climate change, a mission we continue today through our Havas Climate Practice.
- Bulldog Reporter names us Best Midsize Agency for Corporate Reputation and Good Works. The next year it’s Midsize Agency of the Year.
- Havas PR launches its Phoenix office.
- We create our Franco-American focus.