Yannick Bolloré: Size is less important than the 'sweet spot'

Havas' global chairman and CEO compared his company's trajectory to Apple's victory over Microsoft at Advertising Week Europe on Tuesday.

Yannick Bollore on stage at Advertising Week Europe.
Yannick Bollore on stage at Advertising Week Europe.

LONDON: Yannick Bolloré, Havas’ global chairman and chief executive, was grilled about his holding company at Advertising Week Europe on Tuesday morning.

Size isn’t as important as being in the "sweet spot" when markets are changing, said Bolloré, who was being interviewed on stage at Ad Week Europe on Tuesday.

Bolloré used Apple overtaking Microsoft as an example of a fitter company surpassing a much larger rival in a conversation about Havas’ size relative to larger holding companies such as Publicis Groupe and WPP.

"I remember when I became chief executive, analysts said the company was too small and that we had two choices," he said. "We could either die or we could consolidate." Bolloré added that he instead focused on making the company healthier by being more responsive to client needs.

Now, according to Bolloré, the planets are aligning for Havas, as evidenced by the company's 2014 financials, which showed record growth for the company.

Kathleen Saxton, the founder of headhunter The Lighthouse Company, interviewed him on stage at Advertising Week.

Asked if he would consider taking Havas private, Bolloré, whose family owns 82.5% of the company's share capital through its Bolloré Group, said no.

He added that while being mostly family owned meant there was no short-term focus on "immediate profits," it was important to remain attractive to investors.

Bolloré cited his focus on client service and said Havas used to have a culture of hunters who were more comfortable chasing business than servicing existing clients, but that has changed.

Saxton remarked that Bolloré’s obsession with client service was matched by WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell because both are famous for responding to client emails in the middle of the night. 

But she added that while Sorrell was known for his terse replies, Bolloré was known for long flourishing sentences and salutations, whatever the occasion.

"Well, I am French," he responded.  

This story originally appeared on Campaign.

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