GLOBAL CHIEF INTEGRATION OFFICER CHRISTIAN DE LA VILLEHUCHET EXPLAINS THE STRENGTH OF OUR VILLAGE STRUCTURE AND WHY IT’S VITAL WE RETURN FOR OUR FUTURE SUCCESS.
Can you tell us about your role?
As Global Chief Integration Officer of Havas Group, my job is very simple. It is to help Havas Group leaders transform our organisation and make it meaningful to the times we live in and the times we are preparing for.
Since March 2020 most of us have been working successfully from home. Is our Village model still meaningful?
When you think about it, we are isolated from each other working from home and it has probably made our culture more important than ever to maintain our sense of belonging. It is our mission to make a meaningful difference to people and I believe our Villages, because of their spirit, because of their location and because of their culture, are absolutely essential to make this a reality! Many of our agencies rolled out brilliant initiatives while we were working remotely that worked well to maintain our culture, from virtual events and webinars to online gaming, for example, because all of the managers firmly believe connection is what unites us. But virtual isn’t the same. What unites us is our culture of togetherness created by being physically in our Villages. It is super important that we return once it is safe to do so.
Why do you think Havas’ Village model makes us unique from our competitors?
My view is very simple. Our competitors have stacked competing offerings to generate economies of scale and therefore create shareholder value. It makes them all the same, it’s all vertical integration. For us, it’s about horizontal integration. We are aggregating complementary offerings, not competing offerings, and not to create economies of scale, but to create client value. It’s more about collaboration. It’s not about rivalry. Havas Media does not do what Havas Creative does or what Havas Health and You does. It is what makes us different as a network. That’s what we do and who we are. We are entrepreneurial and agile. I can tell you that no one Village resembles another. It makes us much more relevant to the client, because the clients are all different.
Do you think the needs and expectations of clients have changed? How does our Village model fulfill those expectations?
I think they have changed dramatically. As always, a crisis accelerates change. You can look at this on two levels. Today, I think clients have much more of a business problem than they have a marketing or communication problem. They are asking themselves: “Will I close?” “Will I survive?” “Will I have the funds to diversify?” “Will I be able to do what I have been able to do before?” “How do I speed up my digital transformation?” The other level we can look at is that many clients have less money, fewer manpower resources, and want to get out of the crisis fast and first. In that respect, they need fewer partners, and they need partners who have a wider range of disciplines and business thinkers with big ideas that can have an impact on their own business. It is the Village moment because we can precisely offer a very high level of seniority to our clients, business creative thinking, and deliver it through the whole communication value chain with consistency and competitive costs. No one else can do that. It is the right set up.
What lessons have we learned throughout the past ten months? What does the future of our Villages look like?
I think we have invented a new way of working and that will remain. People will want to work at the office to create, construct, and collaborate with one another but they will use their home office to think, or to administrate. We didn’t see the world like that before. Everything happened at the office. Life has changed. The idea that this way of working will continue just until the end of lockdown is wrong. People have a new set of expectations when it comes to their work life because we have become used to a hybrid between our professional and personal lives. The other day I went for a walk in the forest in Brussels and I was inspired to take some pictures of the snow. I would never have taken a 30-minute walk in the middle of a work day last year. I think it’s good for us. Technology has allowed for professional life to swallow our private lives, but in this situation, as difficult as it has been, technology has allowed us to rebalance. About our Villages, they will be place of collaboration, and their future lies more in common resources. In finance, IT, HR or new business and common offerings like social, data, content, production. That will give us scale in critical areas, that will also give us visibility, while making our Village proposition even more credible.