EDITORIAL: Havas should grab its second chance

Interpreting what Procter & Gamble is up to is a bit like being in

Moscow during the Soviet era when foreign correspondents rigorously

examined every leadership speech for hidden meaning and watched the May

Day parade podium for evidence of a purge.

The world's biggest advertiser doesn't enjoy close scrutiny and deals

harshly with any roster agency indiscreet enough to discuss its inner

workings with outsiders. So what's to be made of P&G's decision to

enhance its relationship with Havas Communications just two years after

it relieved the group of dollars 100 million-worth of billings? With

little to go on, judgments are difficult.

Havas is out to rebuild bridges, using the softly softly diplomacy of Ed

Eskandarian, the chief executive of its Arnold Worldwide subsidiary and

its New York shop Jordan McGrath Case & Partners/Euro RSCG - now

incorporated into the Arnold network.

Jordan McGrath, the only Euro agency to survive the bloodbath in 1999,

enjoys a good relationship with P&G and will play a key part in the

attempt to lever business.

But whether or not the switch of the pounds 3 million UK Bounty kitchen

towel account out of Leo Burnett and into Arnold's Partners BDDH signals

a fundamental shift in the P&G global roster or amounts to any more than

a bit of local tweaking remains to be seen.

The most likely explanation is that P&G, reduced to four networks after

a less than satisfactory performance by Euro, is using the change of

ownership at Jordan McGrath to recreate its original network


For Havas, it will be an uphill struggle. While P&G is a much

sought-after client because of the critical mass it gives a network and

the huge contribution it makes to overheads, the company has a

reputation for steadfast loyalty to its roster shops.

In the group's favour is the fact that P&G is not the lumbering

leviathan it was. A cathartic period that saw rivals such as SC Johnson

and Colgate outselling it and Unilever's Persil stealing market share

has provoked a fundamental re-evaluation. The aim now is to get the most

creative and effective advertising possible, leading to creatively led

shops such as HHCL & Partners and Mother being admitted to its agency


The effect of all this will certainly have been to put all P&G's roster

networks - Grey Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi, Burnett and D'Arcy - on

heightened alert.

So good luck to Havas. It has set itself a huge challenge. Bounty is a

promising start. It has a foot in P&G's door. Now let's see if it can

break it down.