Our Voices


One of the world’s largest global communications groups, Havas is committed to creating a meaningful difference to brands, businesses, and people.

The first-of-its-kind platform, now operating in the US and UK, guides Havas clients to positively invest funds in underrepresented businesses and have a meaningful impact on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and LGBTQIA+-owned media companies. 

Here, the Global Head of Programmatic explores plans for the platform’s global expansion and chats about its ultimate goal to make our industry and the world a more equitable place. 

The Social Equity Marketplace first launched in July. What was the drive behind its development and how has it evolved since then? 

In June we were all part of an extraordinary moment in national and international discourse. Black Lives Matter was finally getting the momentum it deserved, we faced COVID across the world and New York was celebrating the 50th Pride March. 

In this extraordinary moment our Chief Strategy Officer, Greg James, challenged us to think about how context matters in Meaningful Media; the media platforms brands choose to invest in are as important as the messaging within their advertising. He asked could we offer advertisers a way to take positive actions with their media spend as desired, just like a bank could create or manage socially responsible funds?    

When we looked at the “pipes” to build a solution we found that BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and other minority-owned businesses) were not always getting a fair share of investment. Scale and the complexity of the digital ecosystem were embedding a systemic bias. Our teams in the US and the UK were able to build out direct connections with media partners to make it easier for advertisers to take positive action and directly support minority owned businesses. Working with LGBTQIA+ and women owned businesses we found some of the same inequities which we could solve. This was the first Social Equity Marketplace and launched in the US and the UK. 

In France, laws on data collection make verifying minority ownership or management difficult. Our French team suggested that climate action is increasingly important for social equity and equality. This was a light bulb moment. From our conversations with international clients we knew there was a real appetite for a frictionless way to make positive investment in this area too. This month we launched the Sustainability Marketplace for media partners committing to real and verifiable change on climate in Germany and France. 

What are the long-term goals for the marketplace? 

Our continuing mission is to give our advertisers a frictionless way to invest in positive change through Meaningful Media. In the next few months we’re going to roll out in more markets and introduce more of our clients. Long term, we see investment in minority-owned businesses as a permanent part of our advertisers’ media mix.    

We’ll also be pushing into new channels and media. In the US, we’re already expanded into Audio by supporting BIPOC podcast creators and in the UK, we’re currently evaluating an offer for connected TV to support LGBTQIA+ creators. Next year we’d like to push into DOOH (Digital Out of Home).  

We’d love for people across our network to get involved so if you’re reading this and would like to get involved please do get in touch!  

How important is it for Havas to be able to guide clients to take positive action and present opportunities to do so like this marketplace? 

The Social Equity Marketplace is Meaningful Media. Today, it’s just as important where a brand shows up as what they have to say.   

There’s been great uptake from our clients some of whom were mentioned in the press around the launch. In the US, we were delighted to launch with Michelin and Moen. In the UK, Starbucks committed to support the Social Equity Marketplace as part of their pumpkin spiced latte autumn campaign.  

With the Social Equity Marketplace our clients have a way of making a real impact. Other holding companies came out with updated “guidelines on policy” and audience focused products, but Havas launched a real way for our clients to invest their media dollars to make positive change. We pushed the industry forward. When LUMA partners released their Black LUMAscape in September we were already working with most of the Media Partners!   

Can you tell us about some of the minority-owned companies involved in the marketplace? 

There are now just over fifty partners across the world, and these vary by country, but it’s great to call out a few:   

  • Colossus is a minority owned technology company we’ve worked with in the US. They’ve recently started to gain press as the first minority-owned run and focused SSP 
  • PinkNews in the UK has obtained some amazing interviews (including a great interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury) and carried articles from the last five British Prime Ministers. They maintain an editorial policy of non-partisan approach to campaigning.  
  • Blavity is a community and platform for Black Voices, stories, creators and thought leadership.
  • GayTimes is one of the oldest continuously publishing LGBTQ+ media brands, we partnered with them for a Havas Pre-Pride event back in May. 

The marketplace presents more to clients than just the opportunity to support underrepresented companies – how much does it benefit brands to reach and engage with the diverse audiences the marketplace exposes them to? 

Good Media Experience drives value as well as being value-driven. We’ve seen significant improvement in both engagement metrics and performance KPIs: Media that is trusted, engaging and influential better moves consumers to action.  

The quality of the Social Equity Marketplace is very high. We’re typically seeing marketplace partners beat viewability targets which measure how much and for how a long an ad is viewable. Within the supply chain we’re seeing zero ad fraud on many of these media partners proving out they have a high-quality readership; the media partners that make up the marketplace deliver a great Media Experience and attract high quality traffic.

Do you think 2020 has been a transformative year? 

Epochal yes, transformative… can I come back to you in 2021? As an industry and society, we still have much work to do. 

Whatever happens in the next year I’ve never been more confident in our leadership position at Havas and proud of the work we do at Havas Media. Meaningful Media’s time is now.  

On a personal level many of us are looking again at our role in society, our ability to support and effect change and our responsibility to be better allies: I’m incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to work on projects like the Social Equity Marketplace here at Havas.   

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