Feature

Why Matt Adams is ready to create the 'next chapter' at Havas Media

It's his first time in a media agency driving seat but Matt Adams is already pressing hard on the accelerator.

Matt Adams: chief executive of Havas Media
Matt Adams: chief executive of Havas Media

On his second day as chief executive of Havas Media, Matt Adams was already breaking down barriers: "I think the hierarchical structure within agencies is horrific. I asked for my office to be taken down on day two. I don’t want a glass wall around me. As a leader, you have to be sat around your team and listening to the pulse of the organisation."

Adams succeeds Paul Frampton, who was promoted to group chief executive of UK and Ireland in February, and joins from iProspect, where he was the digital performance shop’s managing director.

The 38-year-old sees himself as developer and enabler of talent. Adams believes this comes from being part of a family of teachers and admits to being the "black sheep", having gone into advertising rather than follow his mother, father, brother and sister into education. 

Havas Media, which counts the BBC and Swarovski as clients, hasn’t emerged unscathed from the period of limbo that followed Frampton’s promotion.

Adams has not run a media agency before but points to his experience as head of activation (and later managing partner) of global solutions at MEC, where he spent four-and-a-half years until 2013. And he had a broader role in his first year at iProspect when there wasn’t a chief exectutive.

Adams says, "I was stretching across these different spans, having autonomy of leadership and creating a high-performance culture and high-performance team.

"I don’t see it as hugely different here. There’s an incredible MD in place with Natasha Murray, who is brilliant – she’s been running the business while the role that I’m coming into has been open."

Still, Havas Media, which counts the BBC and Swarovski as clients, hasn’t emerged unscathed from the period of limbo that followed Frampton’s promotion. It lost Nationwide’s £40m account to MEC in August.

Adams is now a month into the job but says Frampton has been very clear that his role is to "create the next chapter" at Havas Media, which means faster growth. He spends rather less time on Twitter than his boss, having sent 35,000 fewer tweets. 

Adams is optimistic about achieving that as Havas prepares to move all its agencies into the new London village at the end of the year, noting "there’s less legacy" compared with what he is used to within Dentsu Aegis Network.

He promises "a lot of change" before Christmas. High on his agenda is helping Havas Media Group’s UK agencies to work properly to bring together paid media with their entertainment, experiential and PR offerings.

And while the silos within HMG are broken down, Adams is clear that the consulting giants are firmly in his crosshairs as the likes of Deloitte and Accenture muscle in on agency turf.

He explains, "We can be a true partner to [brands] in business, versus just their media business. That more consultative approach is absolutely a space that this business should be moving into quite quickly."

Adams is clear that the consulting giants are firmly in his crosshairs as the likes of Deloitte and Accenture muscle in on agency turf.

Havas Consulting, a global proposition, launched recently and is "a statement of intent of where the organisation wants to go", he says.

There is also talk of acquisitions as HMG looks to plug capability gaps regionally and nationally. Adams is excited about Havas Media Manchester, which opened last year, and HMG this week bought London entertainment shop Target Media and Communications Group.

Ben Wood, his former colleague at iProspect who is now director of agencies at Facebook, says: "I’ve worked with Matt twice in my career. He is passionate about the industry, about clients and about winning. He’s one of those people you would rather have on your side."

Adams, a married father of two who lives in Reigate, is training for his pilot’s licence in his spare time. He’ll need to show he can fly unaided soon at Havas.