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India is one of the three most important markets for Havas Creative, after China and the US
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People don’t hate being marketed to, they hate being badly marketed to: Chris Hirst, Havas Creative

India is one of the three most important markets for Havas Creative, after China and the US
  • Chris Hirst, Global Chief Executive Officer, Havas Creative, on his recent trip to India spoke to us about his idea of an agency and leadership of the future.
  • He also told us why he has high expectations from its India business, which is already one of its top three markets.
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People don’t hate being marketed to, they hate being badly marketed to: Chris Hirst, Havas Creative
People don’t hate being marketed to, they hate being badly marketed to: Chris Hirst, Havas Creative
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On his recent visit to India, Chris Hirst, Global Chief Executive Officer, Havas Creative had his agenda set. About 18 months ago, the agency saw a leadership overhaul wherein, Rana Barua and Bobby Pawar took on the roles of Havas India’s Group CEO, and Chairman & CCO respectively.

On his last visit, about a year ago, this leadership team was relatively new, so the agenda this year was to spend some quality time with the new leaders and the team. Last year on his visit, he had also met a large number of businesses, a few of which had presented the possibility of acquisitions. Since then, a lot has happened. Havas has made three successful acquisitions, including Think Design, a UI UX design consultancy, Langoor, an independent digital agency and experiential agency Shobiz Experiential Communications. So his aim was also to spend some time with all the new businesses that have now become a part of the Havas family.

We had a chance of catching up with Hirst who spoke to us about myriad things, including the future of agencies to the evolution of creativity and his expectations from the Indian market. Hirst has written the much talked-about book, ‘No Bullsh*t Leadership’ and he also told us about who he thinks will be the leader of the future.

Becoming an agency and leader of the future

While nobody can predict what the future holds for us, organizations are evolving and building themselves in a way that they would be ready to tackle the challenges of the future.

On what he feels are the factors that can help an agency be future-ready, Hirst said that he believes that there are two factors that make for a great creative agency. “According to me, the two things are, ‘Can you have more than your fair share of great talent, and have you got an organizational culture that allows your teams to outperform the competition?’ If you achieve these two things, you’ll have a great agency,” he said. He also added that for him, true creativity will continue to be the driver of growth and success for brands, even in the future.

Having written a book on leadership which talks about the need for leadership to evolve, we obviously had to ask him what will make a good leader in the future. To which he replied with a laugh, “Is it too crowd-pleasing to say Virat Kohli because I am in India?” However, on a serious note, he added, “One of the things that I think has changed about leadership is, we used to live in a world of command and control and top-down leadership. People at the top would tell everybody else what to do, and everybody, whether they liked it or not, would go ahead and do it. That world is changing, if not changed already. Some people may still try and work in that way, but my argument, even in my book, is that’s far from the most effective way of leading. People who lead in a more open way, a way where you focus on clarity of objectives, and organizations that work on creating a culture that allows your teams to outperform, will outperform.”

On building campaigns that break the clutter

With media full of so much noise, it is imperative to give the audience something different, to make them sit up and take notice. When asked what he thinks transforms an average creative into a brilliant one, Hirst said, “It is all about understanding your audience and giving them a relevant message at an appropriate time. I don’t think it’s always about entertaining. Sometimes people want factual information too. But at other times, creativity is a key way of not just cutting through but getting people into a world where it's increasingly easier to avoid marketing communications. Creativity is a key way of keeping people engaged with your message. It's not that people hate being marketed to, they just hate being badly marketed to. And if done right, brands and marketing can help people navigate choice in an otherwise cluttered world.”

Why India is important

Hirst shares that India is one of the three most important markets for the French communications major along with the US and China. And with the acquisitions and its recent wins at awards like Effies, Hirst believes that it has been a good year for the network.

On what his expectations from the market are, he said, “My expectation from the Indian market, at the risk of sounding flippant, is more of the same – in sense of the direction of travel. We changed the team sometime back, we’ve made some acquisitions we are super proud of. Other than acquisitions, the only place an agency's growth comes from is from winning pitches and we’ve won some big new businesses. Do I think we are where we want to be? No, we are way more ambitious. We want to win even bigger pitches, win a Cannes and we want to continue to acquire but we're very pleased with how we're doing so far.”

On when he thinks India could become the top market for the agency, Hirst said, “When it comes to India, the question isn't whether or not India is a top market for us. I think agencies are about leadership teams and we've got a great team in this market now that has our 100% support. The question to the leadership team is, ‘What more do you need from us and how fast is too fast?’ And the agencies we have in India now can deliver pretty much everything we need. I just think that we can get more growth, win more awards, and we can be more ambitious. I would hate to put a date on it.”


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