Havas PR: Agency Business Report 2015

The past 12 months were "very tough" says Havas PR North America CEO Marian Salzman.

Marian Salzman, CEO, North America
Marian Salzman, CEO, North America

Principal: Marian Salzman, CEO, North America
Ownership: Havas Group
Subsidiary agencies: 25
Offices: Global: 25 wholly owned; US: 12
Revenue: Global: about $208 million; US: $45 million to $50 million
Headcount: Global: 1,200; US: 140
Note: Staff numbers reported last year also included Havas Worldwide employees

The past 12 months were "very tough" says Havas PR North America CEO Marian Salzman. The firm’s revenue was flat in North America, primarily due to the loss of Sanofi’s diabetes business to Burson-Marsteller. Salzman estimates the firm would have been up by about 20% if it had held on to that account.

"We weren’t ahead of Sanofi the way we should have been," she says, adding that the French drug manufacturer also saw significant budget cuts. Sister agency Havas Life Medicom continues to work with Sanofi in France.

Salzman and her team spent the latter half of 2014 trying to make up for the loss of revenue.

"I learned my lesson – I’m never going to go to bed with just one client and have to face that," she adds. "Instead, I’m focused on diversifying with clients that are less than six or seven figures. It may be harder work, but the revenue is much more stable."

Attracting new clients
Havas PR won a project with retailer Big Lots for the 2014 holiday season and was appointed AOR at the beginning of 2015. Also in that sector, the firm is working on store openings for Irish clothing retailer Primark as it expands to the US. Other client wins included The Economist, Cabot Creamery, a fall project for Harley-Davidson, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and media platform MindBodyGreen.

Last year saw the launch of Havas PR’s climate practice. As part of that, the agency expanded duties with the United Nations Foundation to work on its action/2015 campaign, which addresses poverty and climate change. The practice has three global hubs, in New York, Sydney, and London.

Havas PR opened an office in Phoenix early this year serving new client Fox Restaurant Concepts, among others. Phoenix and New York City will house the agency’s Hispanic practice, Conexiones, including work on JC Penney’s Hispanic account, which began in 2013. Salzman says the move to Phoenix is an example of the firm’s "hyper-regional" growth strategy.

"We’re working really regional, going small to get big," she says, estimating that the Phoenix, Boston, and Pittsburgh offices will each grow to about $3 million to $4 million in revenue.

"If the right acquisition falls into my lap from Boston, Los Angeles, or Seattle, I would love it," Salzman adds. "We do well in medium-size cities."

Last year "wasn’t a good year for big hires," she says. EVP Renee Harper, who joined the agency in 2013 from Newark Public Schools in New Jersey, left to return to her entrepreneurial roots. At the end of 2014, holding company Havas acquired Formula PR with plans to rebrand the firm as Havas Formula. The two firms will operate separately as "competitive siblings," Salzman notes. 

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