Eurocom's history dates back to 1835 with the founding of France's first press agency, Agence Havas. During the 1920s, it turned to advertising as well, forming an internal agency. By the eve of World War II, Havas was France's largest advertising agency with billings 10 times those of its nearest competitor.
The French government nationalized Agence Havas in 1945, splitting off the press agency to form Agence France Press. Agence Havas (in which the government owned a majority stake) was left with interests in the sale of press space, tourism and advertising. Havas Conseil, formed in 1958 to oversee the company's advertising ventures, was France's largest advertising agency (briefly surpassed by Publicis in the 1960s and 1970s) through most of the postwar period.
Mr. Douce joined Havas at the age of 19 immediately after the war. By 1959, he was head of Havas Conseil and was responsible for much of Havas' success, bringing in clients such as Evian, L'Oréal, Simca and General Foods.
By 1974, Mr. Douce began to fear that Havas Conseil had become too large and too impersonal for many of its clients. Setting up Eurocom as the holding company, he split the agency into smaller component pieces: Havas-Conseil, Univas, Ecom, Performance-Conseil, Faits et Communications and Polaris. It also had a minority interest in French agency Bélier.
Mr. Douce's gamble worked; sales figures increased tenfold, and the agencies' market share doubled over the next seven years.
Further changes occurred in the 1980s as Eurocom sought to expand globally under the leadership of Bernard Brochand. After years of negotiations, Eurocom merged its subsidiary, Havas-Conseil, with Young & Rubicam's Marsteller subsidiary to form Havas Conseil Marsteller in 1985. HCM invited the Japanese agency Denstu to join the partnership in 1987, forming Havas Dentsu Marsteller. Eurocom thus established its first significant presence in the U.S. and Asia and entered the ranks of the world's top 15 advertising agencies.
In 1986, Mr. Brochand increased Eurocom's minority stake in the large agency Bélier to 95%. With the Bélier addition (and the acquisition of such clients as L'Oréal and Evian), Eurocom rocketed past Publicis to become France's-and Europe's-largest agency.
Alain de Pouzilhac, who succeeded Mr. Brochand in 1988, continued his predecessor's expansionism. In 1989, along with Carat Espace, the French-based media space broker, Eurocom bought a controlling interest in the British agency Wight Collins Rutherford Scott, which had 38 offices around the world. With WCRS came its U.S. network under the leadership of Jerry Della Femina and his company, Della Femina Ball; the new agency was called EWDB. This alliance saw the quick unraveling of Eurocom's partnership with HDM (Eurocom bought its way out of the partnership in late 1990) as Eurocom now had agencies competing with its Asian-American allies.
An unexpected buying opportunity arose for Eurocom in 1991. RSCG, the foremost creative agency in France for 20 years, was in debt for more than $200 million as a result of unsuccessful attempts to expand. RSCG was not only France's No. 3 agency, but it also had offices in the U.S., most notably RSCG-Tatham with its $100 million Procter & Gamble Co. account.
The two companies united, forming Euro RSCG. In 2003, Euro RSCG Worldwide, under the Havas umbrella, had worldwide revenue of $756.1 million, up 3.1% from 2003. In the U.S., it was the No. 12 agency brand, with revenue of $194.1 million, up 1.4% from 2002.