The view from Berlin

By Chris Hirst

Last week, the leaders of all Havas’ European businesses came together in Berlin. In the beautiful spring sunshine, we began our shared journey to create our brightest future.

We are building businesses that will be the best.

The pursuit of that excellence requires a sense of urgency and desire. Our clients’ markets and industries are changing so much and we need to be ready for it. Fit for today, ready for tomorrow.

I believe an agency’s culture is the key to that readiness. Culture is like concrete — when you first pour it, it’s soft and fluid. But over time it sets and hardens. It becomes a hard, physical thing. If you need to change it, you have to smash it to pieces. It takes a physical act.

And that act doesn’t need to be grand or strategic.

In the simplest terms, make Monday different to Friday. Make every week different from the last. And banish the status quo.

Actually, I believe there is no such thing as status quo in our business. You’re either going up or going down. Our future success depends on going up — it depends on growth.

When we move into the Havas Village in London, our newly integrated offering will be central to our growth story. We have a unique opportunity to show our clients what they will get from us that they can’t get from our competitors.


In truth, marketing has become an infinite buffet of choices for our clients and we need to help them decide what to eat.

They are struggling to make their brands relevant and are demanding more from their agencies.

And that’s where the next phase of our Havas story will be so important. Offering all our expertise not just under one roof, but in one pitch, means we can work together to win.

In an industry made up of buildings full of people, we’re building ones full of the right people with the right minds — the minds of an artist, an analyst, an alchemist.

We’re building teams that draw together the insights, data and creative work of all our disciplines. At the cross-section, the most meaningful work will be born.


At the end of our two days in Berlin, a young man called Jon White joined us. He’s an ex-Royal Marine. A product of the Commando Training camp that has created some of the most talented leaders our military has ever known. In Afghanistan, he lost both his legs and one of his arms to an IED. But his life didn’t end that day. He survived to be the best man he can be today.

As we left Berlin his message was that hard work won’t kill you, the challenges of your daily life won’t kill you, nobody’s going to die. So be happy. Keep paddling and try to enjoy it. Make the most of your life and your work. That’s the path to success.


Too many agencies are like the Vatican choosing a new Pope.

The world’s eyes are on the sliver of light under the door of the boss’ big glass office, like the chimney that punts out black smoke until the choice of a new Pontiff has been made.

The agency waits with baited breath until the white smoke appears.

I hate the infrastructure in agencies that creates this.

I want to smash it down.

It makes us slow. It makes us unresponsive. It gives us the same answers — not new answers.

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was a computer programmer in the 1940s and has a US Navy Destroyer named after her. She once said that ‘the most dangerous phrase in the English language is ‘we’ve always done it this way’.

From now on, Havas will be offering new answers for a new world. And I’m excited because we’ve never done it this way before.

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