The conversation begins with a video, a very rare day of rain in June in Madrid. The image is stranger than time. It is taken with the mobile of the wife of Peter Mears (Macclesfield, United Kingdom, 1971), world CEO of the advertising firm Havas Media Network, at nine in the morning, next to Central Park, New York, where they live. A mist, the color of an orange peel that has endured the August sun, covers the entire green surface. It’s the smoke and windblown ash from 200 fires in Canada. “We are entering a new era,” she admits. His company too. Digitization, ethics and recognition of the incredible social influence of advertising. This is the summary of a company with 9,000 employees and a presence in 143 countries. In addition, it has just closed acquisitions in Canada (Noise Digital) and the United Kingdom (Expert Edge, additive+ and Search Laboratory).
Ask. On July 23 there are general elections in Spain. What would your campaign design be?
Answer.The ingredients for a successful electoral campaign are the same as if you were selling a product. Understand very well what your target audience and the media are. And find out the correct time to be present in those media. It seems like a simple process, but it is not.
Q.Is it the same strategy for a candidate from the left as from the right?
R.We are talking about the same approach but with different ingredients. Understand the audience, how they live their lives through the media and how they can be reached. There are tools that help in this process.
Q.“Tools” today sounds like artificial intelligence. Can it become a threat to the consumer?
R.Right now there is a discussion in the international community. We have to remember, it is the most important thing, that there is a great variety of instruments. Artificial intelligence is not a strategy, but a group of tools. And they need to be run by human beings who are smart, skilled, and respectful of other people. In the right hands they can be very beneficial to society, although no one forgets their potential risks.
Q.All of that is wrapped up in digitization. How do they manage it?
R.The Havas group has undergone a transformation process over the past three years. Something that helps us to give a better service to our customers. One of the driving forces is understanding what is meaningful brands (valuable brands) for the customer. And one of the keys is to communicate through reliable, effective and influential means. We have created a whole process for our customers to identify them. The specific audience, the television channel, the printed medium. In this way we develop the most appropriate (media) plan.
Q.In 2021, he spoke out against what he called the “era of cynicism.” Do, for example, pass for sustainable products that are not. Have we overcome cynicism and entered that new era?
R.Yes it’s true. We move into a different era. This is a huge challenge for Havas as custodians of our clients’ investments. We need to understand the media ecosystem so that money is in the right environment. We are talking about a huge responsibility. Invest in media that follow ethical lines, create safe environments and that are not manipulated by any digital interference, such as bots. In a time of political change, the media can be used for good or not. The messages we send to the world have to fulfill those commitments.
Q.He has a lot of faith in the ESG universe (environment, sustainability, governance, translated into Spanish). But for some companies it is a drag if they only think about the income statement.
R.My reflection is related to the media. Advertising has an impact on the planet and we need to help our customers to understand it. In all European markets, including Spain, we have a carbon emissions calculation system. It is a way of measuring the environmental footprint of our clients’ advertising campaigns.
Q.According to his study meaningful brands, 71% of respondents say that companies and brands should improve and support personal health and well-being. These types of items are usually more expensive than the usual ones. Another form of inequality between who can buy them and who can’t?
R.We have been preparing that report for 14 years. She is a guide. How to create the most effective ensign? And for that it has to be meaningful. How does it benefit society? In addition, this benefit can be measured over time. The brand must help to live. We learned it with the pandemic. Health, family. A different way of seeing the world emerges. Fairer. without those differences. There are also social factors. We are going through great political instability on the planet. And there are different conflicts. Faced with insecurity, brands are very safe places. The relationship with them has become something very important. I think of all the old habits that have been changed by the health crisis. The way of communicating or working.
Q.Havas achieved a turnover of 2,700 million euros in 2022, 18% more. Much of this increase in revenue is due to purchases. Is it an expensive way to grow?
R.We have several pillars. Optimize our core business. In other words, achieve the most efficient relationship with customers. Add capabilities to grow their businesses and brands. For example, we have placed a lot of emphasis on e-commerce. We have a division to show you how you can go beyond traditional media. And we move outside the sphere of classic advertising: experts in sports, music, entertainment. There is an explosion in these sectors. Another of the master beams is acquisitions. We have launched CSA, data and technology specialist.
Q.And Spain? (It takes time to answer.)
R.Yes, we are also looking for companies.
Q.What forecasts do you have for 2023?
R.I am optimistic! In the first two quarters of the year we were worried. Also for Spain. But now the situation has changed. We feel very hopeful with the total financial results of this fiscal year.
Q.Is the new great global advertising destination India?
R.It’s a fantastic opportunity for us and the business. It is a market with a young, technological, and growing population. We have invested a lot of time, effort and resources. Soon we will add a new purchase.
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