Size isn't as important as being in the 'sweet spot', says Yannick Bolloré

Yannick Bolloré, Havas' global chairman and chief executive, was grilled about his company at Advertising Week Europe.

Yannick Bolloré: takes the stage at Advertising Week Europe
Yannick Bolloré: takes the stage at Advertising Week Europe

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, today.

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

He said: "I remember when I became chief executive analysts said the company was too small and that we had two choices. We could either die or we could consolidate," adding that he instead focused on making the company fitter 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.

Bolloré was interviewed on stage at Advertising Week by Kathleen Saxton, the founder of The Lighthouse Company, a headhunter.

Asked if he would ever consider taking Havas private, Bolloré, whose family owns 82.5 per cent 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 be set up in a way that meant Havas could show it was attractive to investors.

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

Saxton remarked that Bolloré’s obsession with client service was matched by the 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 time.

"Well, I am French," he responded.  

Follow everything that's happening at Advertising Week Europe on Campaign's live blog.

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