Yannick Bolloré admitted he spent a lot of time thinking about the scale of Havas after the ill-fated Publicis Omnicom Group merger announcement in July 2013, just a month before he was named chairman.
The prospect of a $23 billion mega agency triggered industry speculation that, to compete in that new industry landscape, Havas—already smallest among its global rivals—would have to acquire another middling agency or be acquired itself.
In his first big agency company role after working in media and entertainment, the Havas chairman and CEO said the company will go it alone.
"When you look at the industry, I don't think the biggest company will win the race," marathon runner Bolloré said of Havas, which has about 16,000 staffers and $2.4 billion in revenue. "We are big enough to manage global clients…but at the same time, not too big. We can still change and adapt. Our scale is ideal."
When asked about reports Havas might hook up with French entertainment concern Vivendi, in which Bolloré's father Vincent is chairman and largest shareholder, the younger exec didn’t exactly rule out that possibility. "That's a completely different story," he said. "What I was referring to was advertising (acquisitions) because I'm here as the chairman of Havas. We have a lot of room for improvement, but afterward we can look at partnerships."
As Yannick Bolloré described Havas' investments in tech companies and new forms of content at Advertising Week, rumors swirled about his father's own acquisitions in those areas for Vivendi. Media reports say Vincent Bolloré could spend as much as $1 billion on U.S. acquisitions in the areas of digital, tech and content.
Making his first North American appearance at an Advertising Week session, the 34-year-old new kid on the holding company block cuts a distinctively different profile than his industry counterparts: Tall and thin, with his often unruly shock of hair and grey dress shoes, he seems eager to express his own distinctive point of view and vision for Havas, coming out from the shadow of his well-known businessman father, Havas's largest shareholder. At the age of 20, Yannick Bolloré started his own film production company and he remains involved with film, having a production credit on a Yves Saint Laurent bio drama this year. He insisted that's an important distinction in his leadership style.
"Two things that are important today when you run an advertising company. You must understand creative," he said, stressing that having financial perspective is not enough. "To have this creative background helps me understand how this industry of content is changing."
His early experience in starting his own company has also made it a critical priority to foster an atmosphere of entrepreneurship at Havas. "It's very important for all our people to invent their jobs and the way they work with clients," he said.