Editorial: Bollore can re-energise Havas: vive la difference

It is said the moment Vincent Bollore buys into a company is the time to prepare for a roller-coaster ride.

There is barely time to draw breath before the excitement begins, as rising share prices lead more investors to pile in and the knuckles of senior managers turn white as they hold on to their seats. That was certainly the case after he acquired his first stake in Havas almost two years ago. The global marcoms industry now waits to find out if it is to be similiarly challenged.

Little more than 15 years ago, it would have been inconceivable that such a threat could emanate from France. The US-based networks still ruled the global roost and Campaign articles asked why their French counterparts were unable to hack it internationally. The main reasons cited were Gallic insensitivity and arrogance, and the fact that there were few French companies capable of playing on the global stage. Maurice Levy, the Publicis Groupe boss, changed that, recognising national hang-ups needed to be replaced by a more pragmatic approach if French agencies were ever to achieve success beyond Europe.

Publicis has achieved this with a panache Havas has never matched. Can Bollore be the spark-plug that enables Havas to snap at Publicis' heels?

Bollore and Levy are two of a kind. Both are astute, charismatic figures; both have come from non-advertising backgrounds to run major communication groups. Whether Bollore can follow where Levy has led remains to be seen.

This week's profile of him (page 20) suggests that he is clever enough to know what he does not know and will give support to the specialists he has picked to run his show. And although he may not necessarily understand the creative process, he appreciates its value.

Of course, serious questions remain. Can Bollore evolve from entrepreneur to long-term manager? Are the skills he has acquired assembling his diverse group of companies easily transferable into marketing communications?

And, most importantly of all, will he be content to build Havas when he has always thrived on the thrill of the chase? All these questions defy simple answers. But some things are certain. Bollore provides a fresh, intriguing new dimension - and the ride will be an exhilarating one.

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