Desperate Measures

It may be a sign of the times at Havas when it sends out a press release trumpeting retained accounts as new-business wins. Last week, the Paris holding company told the press that Sanofi-Aventis “awarded” Euro RSCG Life “the global advertising account for the thrombosis treatment Lovenox and for Lantus and Apidra diabetes treatment.” It left out one important detail: Euro began working for Lantus in 2003 and has already rolled out the drug in 81 countries, while Lovenox and Apidra were assigned to the agency earlier this year.

Given their recent travails—failed bid for Grey Global; circling of a shadowy corporate raider; flagship clients Intel and Volkswagen reviewing—surviving a client merger may well feel like a “win” to the frazzled spinmeisters at Havas HQ: The news, untold in the release, is that Havas held onto its Aventis brands after that company was acquired, in August, by smaller rival Sanofi-Synthélabo, which has used Publicis as its single agency. A Havas rep justifies the press release in light of that, saying Euro also added new assignments on the three brands in non-advertising channels and in a greater number of markets.

The rep did not disclose the billings gain, but, according to Havas’ press release, Sanofi-Aventis now ranks among Havas’ top five clients. Which, if you’re a Havas investor, isn’t the good news it would seem: According to an internal Oct. 22 memo, Sanofi-Aventis said Euro will be the global agency on Lantus/ Apidra only until the end of 2006, while its service on Lovenox is not needed after 2005. With the exception of Allegra, handled by McCann Erickson, the memo said that after “careful evaluation,” Publicis, starting Jan. 1, becomes the merged company’s exclusive communication partner in all countries.