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Arnold CEO Andrew Benett Gets New Havas Global Post

After Three-Year Run, Benett Will Be Succeeded By Robert LePlae Atop the Micronetwork

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After three years as global CEO at Arnold Worldwide, Andrew Benett is relinquishing his post to move up through the ranks of Paris-based holding company Havas. Mr. Benett has been appointed to the new role of global president at Havas Worldwide, previously known as EuroRSCG. He will be succeeded at Arnold by Robert LePlae, Arnold 's global president.

Andrew Benett
Andrew Benett

The two execs will report to David Jones, who serves as both global CEO of the Havas Worldwide agency network and global CEO of Havas the holding company.

Although Mr. Jones is hanging on to his CEO title at Havas Worldwide, the promotion of Mr. Benett ensures that Mr. Jones will transfer day-to-day responsibilities for the network. Regional CEOs around the network will now report to Mr. Benett, who is responsible for revenue growth, attracting new clients and making the agency more prepared for the digital future.

Havas Worldwide's newly rebranded name will take some getting used to, especially in the United States. While it has gotten past a tough period a couple of years ago when it was bleeding major accounts such as Heineken and Jaguar, some search consultants say that its perception as a creative shop remains lackluster, particularly in the U.S., compared with agencies such as BBDO or JWT. At the same time, it does have the firepower abroad of agencies such as BETC in Paris, which is a hotshop.

Part of the challenge for Mr. Benett will be raising that reputation consistently around the world. The new job brings him back to familiar territory, albeit with a much larger remit. Just prior to being named the first global CEO at Arnold , replacing 16-year agency veteran Fran Kelly, Mr. Benett was co-running the New York office of EuroRSCG. All told, he's been at Havas for nearly a decade.

Starting out 2013 with new leadership atop two of its most important agencies, Mr. Jones is continuing a string of changes he's been making at Havas. In 2011, at the age of 44, he became the youngest person to run a global ad-holding company. The moves have included rebranding EuroRSCG, moving all offices under the network into a single location in Paris and in New York, and buying startups such as Socialistic, Camp+King and Victors and Spoils.

At roughly $2 billion in revenue, he knows that Havas is a lot smaller than the competition, which is made of firms such as WPP, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe , Interpublic Group of Cos. and Dentsu. Still, Mr. Jones is insistent that Havas' size is to his advantage, as his rivals are too big to be nimble.

"Rarely it's the biggest legacy business that does well in the new world," Mr. Jones told Ad Age . "Our size is an unbelievable advantage because we're big and global but still small and enough to change the company. I look at some of our competitors and they are too big to change."

"You either have the big global holding companies where what's good about them is they have global accounts and global resources but they've become very large, siloed structures and bureaucratic. ...On the other side you have the small digital and social shops that have great tech and great craft but not the resources," said Mr. Jones. "I want Havas to be the best of both worlds."

Mr. Jones thinks that the aggressive Mr. Benett can help him get there, and his confidence is born out of the rapid turnaround that Mr. Benett led at Arnold .

"He's very smart and very, very good strategically, he's relentlessly driven and obsessive, he's very good with people and he's a very good guy," said Mr. Jones. "He's delivered in every role I have given him and returned the faith I put in him by doing a terrific job. This give him the next big move up. Havas Worldwide is roughly 10 times as big in financial terms as Arnold ."

When Mr. Jones tasked Mr. Benett to run Arnold in February of 2010, he was challenged with rehabbing the shop, and growing the agency's footprint into a proper micronetwork -- something which had been talked about often over the past several years but never truly materialized. In short order, Mr. Benett led, overhauled staff, and spearheaded mergers and purchases of agencies in Europe, Australia, China and Russia to export the Arnold name. It's been much more competitive on the new-business circuit too, chasing after a range of accounts.

Ad Age in 2010 named Arnold , which does work for Dell, Ocean Spray and Hershey, its comeback agency of the year, and a year later, it made the jump onto Ad Age 's A-List, comprised of the best 10 agencies in the country.

The challenge for Mr. Benett's successor, Mr. LePlae, will be to build on that momentum. Mr. LePlae joined Arnold in September, relocating from the West Coast, where he had spent time at larger agency networks such as TBWA and McCann. The move was billed as a means to help fuel Arnold 's international expansion, but his arrival in the fall was the first hint that Mr. Benett might be hand-picking a successor as he was prepping to move upward in Havas. Another sign was the fact that Mr. Benett this summer moved his family to Connecticut from Boston -- where Arnold 's HQ is located-- in order to be based out of New York.

"If I look back at the three years I was there and how I would characterize the state of the agency today, I'd say it's in a really good place, said Mr. Benett. "There's an extremely multidisciplinary group of people at Arnold who are different but appreciate each others' perspectives."

On his successor he said: "Robert's pedigree is incredibly appropriate. He's a really good marketer and has experience with big global brands, and he's run networks before. He also has respect and appreciation for the creative product."

At Havas Worldwide, Mr. Benett will continue focusing on talent--he has a book dubbed the "The Talent Mandate" coming out on the topic in the third quarter of this year--and on innovation. "First and foremost we need to strive to be the most innovative big global network, and a large area of my focus is going to be how and where we deliver that ". Finding some hot new clients will be key too; Mr. Benett is optimistic and says that Havas has a number of potential new accounts in the pipeline.

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