Havas Plans Digital R&D Arm

NEW YORK Havas is initiating a research and development unit to partner with clients and start-ups to find new ad models.
Umair Haque, a London-based consultant, will lead the Havas Media Lab, which has a charter to develop experiments with venture capitalists, start-ups and clients to find new ways of reach consumers in digital channels. The holding company expects the unit to be up and running by March.
A Havas representative declined to discuss the effort prior to its launch.
The effort is the latest in a string of efforts by ad holding companies to establish separate units to determine the future of digital media. The Interpublic Group set up a Futures Marketing Group, which houses its IPG Emerging Media Lab. WPP Group has WPP Digital, which handles its investments in emerging media companies like Spot Runner, Jumptap and others. Publicis Groupe has Denuo, a new-media consultancy that advises start-ups on ad models in exchange for equity positions in them.
Haque, an economist by training and author the blog Bubblegeneration, said the Havas effort would differ from other holding companies’ initiatives by focusing on experimentation. He points out that the ad industry is peculiar in that it spends relatively little on research and development.
Havas Media was formed in October 2006 as an umbrella group for its MPG media agencies.
“We all have a deeply felt interest in reinventing media, marketing and brand,” Haque wrote this week on his blog “The Lab happened because I don’t think any of the standard models — venture funds, corporates, firms, etc. — can really make it happen.”