CAMPAIGN INTERNATIONAL: DECISION MAKER JEAN-MICHEL CARLO - Havas chief sees growth potential below the line/But, he tells Karen Yates, it’s quite enough for the French advertising giant to have a single global brand

The French advertising giant, Havas, has a clear, aggressive game plan. It wants to be one of the world’s top five advertising groups (it’s in sixth place at the moment) and to double its income within three years.

The French advertising giant, Havas, has a clear, aggressive game

plan. It wants to be one of the world’s top five advertising groups

(it’s in sixth place at the moment) and to double its income within

three years.

Since marketing services, such as direct mail, design and promotions are

growing faster than mainstream advertising - and making more money -

Havas will make this the spearhead of its growth strategy. It has

already secured pounds 150 million from the Stock Exchange to help it on

its way.

Havas has four divisions. Euro RSCG, a global above-the-line network,

plus its marketing services brand, the Sales Machine. Campus, which is a

loose association of above-the-line agencies including the UK’s


Its media arm, Media Planning, and the diversified agencies


It is this little-known corner of the Havas empire, according to the

vice-chairman, Jean-Michel Carlo, that will receive the lion’s share of

the group’s effort and cash in coming weeks.

Carlo has a vested interest in saying so, however, because in May he

became the official talent scout of the diversified agencies


And being a buyer is a pleasant change for him, since he spent the early

90s on the other side of the fence. In those days he fended off

creditors and predators as the French chairman of the overstretched BDDP

network, and he admits it taught him a lot. ’I learned first that it’s

not enough to be the best professional in town. If your finance is not

right, you’re dead,’ he says. ’And second, that you have to be very,

very careful in your acquisition policy.’

Careful, yes, but not shy. Since he took over the reins at Havas, Carlo

has made two acquisitions in France, and in July he pulled off a pounds

67 million deal to buy the Lopex group in the UK. Carlo hopes for at

least three or four more announcements by the end of the year - his eye

is on two operations in France, two in the US and two in Italy.

Carlo looks a little bit like the bankers and city wallahs he spends a

lot of time with, but then his career began in banking. After six months

he was so bored that he moved on to advertising and the Eurocom


Finance is in the blood, though. His father was an eminent accountant

and his brother works for Banque Paribas, so he’s happy to talk figures,

especially those explaining the new below-the-line emphasis at


’The Euro division represents 80 per cent of our income. We want that to

be 50 per cent in two years’ time,’ he says, explaining the drive behind

his crusade. ’Sixty per cent of our income is above the line and 40 per

cent is below. We aim to reverse these two figures by the end of the

(three-year) plan.’

So, where does this leave the other parts of the empire? Campus, the

much-vaunted but yet-to-take-off informal network, is seriously

under-represented in some parts, notably the lucrative US market.

The Euro/Sales Machine brands must also have their own demands on the

Havas purse. So how will Carlo’s spending spree in marketing services

affect the other divisions?

’Euro was our focus at the beginning, but now it has become a global

player our priority is the group,’ says Carlo, downplaying any claims on

the cash by other divisions. While Carlo talks the party line, you can’t

help but suspect there’s a bun fight in Paris HQ, as each division

fights for funding.

One also suspects Carlo is rather good at it. Campus, for example, is

only in five countries, despite saying it needs to be in ten, and has

been slower than Carlo’s diversified bunch to seal any deals. Carlo,

with perhaps a hint of self-interest, shrugs and says: ’Campus will only

be a limited investment.’

In any event, this ex-Young & Rubicam man is clear on one point. He’s

not going to force a global brand on any of his acquisitions. Havas only

plans to have one global brand and that’s Euro. Everything else will be

good quality independents or small groups working happily together. It’s

a splendid vision, one which City analysts have already responded well

to. And if there’s one thing that this former BDDP man has learned in

his career, it’s that a happy City is a happy Carlo.