Havas enters New Zealand with acquisition of Mr Smith

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 14 March 2017
John O’Leary and Ben Handy will lead Havas New Zealand

Havas has acquired Auckland agency Mr Smith in a move that sees the network enter New Zealand for the first time.

The deal sees the two Mr Smith founding partners John O’Leary and Ben Handy heading the NZ operation, which has rebranded to Havas New Zealand.

Speaking with AdNews, Havas group COO and CEO of Red Agency James Wright says Havas has been eyeing New Zealand for nine months following client demand in the region.

“This is the first time the group is entering this market. We decided to move into New Zealand in response to clients across media, creative and PR and their requirements,” Wright says.

“We knew it was time to provide these clients support from Havas on the ground and after looking at a few different agencies, we best fit with Mr Smith because they align with our culture and the strategy of having media and creative together.

“Anyone that knows the New Zealand market knows it punches way above its weight creatively. The industry knows how dynamic and brilliant the talent is in New Zealand. You can see that in the work – it speaks for itself.”

Handy, who is now Havas New Zealand’s chief creative officer, says that Mr Smith bought into the “Havas Villages” model introduced last year, rolling media and creative businesses into one globally.

“Throughout a number of global markets, Havas is creating 'Havas Villages', offices that house all the talent a modern brand needs. This includes teams of strategists, media and content producers truly collaborating, with no agendas, across multiple channels," he says.

“We have seen Havas clients successfully get connected and cohesive brand collusion using this model, rather than the fractured process and work that you see across multiple platforms now."

While Mr Smith currently doesn’t offer PR as part of its service, Wright says this is something the agency could explore, but noted no structural or staff changes will be a result of the acquisition at this stage.

O’Leary, now CEO of the Auckland office, says: "Havas is a forward thinking, content-inspired company whose beliefs align strongly with ours. In Europe and the US, Havas clients are having conversations with agency heads, asking for a better agency/client model where all services are provided within a single office, with content at the core.

“Clients have worked through a decade of the segregated agency supplier model, which can often create brand disjointedness and consumer disconnection and they want something to fix their brand issue."

Havas New Zealand clients include Emirates, Firth, Flooring Xtra, GBC Winstone, JDE (including Moccona, L’Or Espresso, Bell Tea, Jed’s and Hummingbird Coffee, TiOra), Les Mills International, 100% Appliances and Philips Lighting.

A key part of the deal is now matching these clients with the with media and entertainment firms Havas has partnerships with, such as Universal Music, Studio Canal, Vevo and Daily Motion.

Havas New Zealand will report into the Australian business. Last week, Havas globally united its media and creative under one P&L. Havas Australia bucked the trend, reporting them separate in this market. Globally, the APAC region is reported as a consolidated P&L. 

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