Havas is trying to parlay the creative reputation of its French flagship agency BETC Euro RSCG Paris on an international scale by backing a new BETC-branded micronetwork of five agencies, led by BETC founders Remi Babinet and Mercedes Erra. The breakaway micronetwork's first shop outside of Paris opens in London this week. Other agencies are planned for Brazil, the U.S. and Asia.
Although agency micronetworks themselves aren't unusual -- Wieden & Kennedy and Bartle Bogle Hegarty are well-known examples -- it's extremely rare for a network office to start a network of its own. The move may have a lot to do with the personalities of Mr. Babinet and Ms. Erra, as it lets them have a global influence while remaining based in their native France.
Mr. Babinet, who is also chief creative officer of Euro RSCG Worldwide and sits on the Havas board of directors, said, "A year ago, when I knew I wanted to do this, [Havas chairman] Vincent Bollore was the first person I spoke to. He can see what we do in Paris and he is interested in the growth of the creative reputation of Havas. BETC will be a place to propose something different and creative and energetic. We can pitch for clients at a global level and this is very important for the growth of Havas."
David Jones, CEO of Havas Group, said, "With BETC we are looking at an amazing creative pedigree. We want to be able to do what they have done in Paris in four of five other cities around the world. There is terrific talent in the industry -- people who want to do entrepreneurial things--and this is a good opportunity for us to bring some of those people into the group. It will be a growth engine for Euro RSCG and for Havas overall."
Mr. Jones pointed to two startups Havas has backed this year -- Socialistic in New York and Camp King in San Francisco -- as examples of his approach to bringing talent into the group.
BETC opened 17 years ago, and won worldwide recognition in 2009 for its Evian campaign "Roller Babies," which became the world's most-downloaded commercial. Last year, the agency's work for French TV station Canal Plus , "The Closet," was one of the most-awarded entries at international ad festivals.
Priding itself on finding unconventional ways to display creativity, the Paris office keeps bees on its roof terrace, and distributes small batches of BETC-branded honey as gifts. The bee will serve as the symbol of the new network. "Bees represent work, quality, organization, sharing, going far to find something -- and they produce beautiful honey," Mr. Babinet said.
The London shop will be led by CEO Matthew Charlton, who was previously worldwide CEO of Modernista, and Executive Creative Director Neil Dawson, the chief creative officer on Philips at DDB Worldwide. The duo, who will both be minority shareholders in BETC London, worked together previously at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London. BETC London already has one client, which they declined to name.
BETC's French -- and global -- clients include Peugeot, Evian, Air France and Reckitt Benckiser. In France, the agency also works with McDonald's Corp., and a number of luxury brands including LVMH, Piper-Heidsieck and jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels. Mr. Babinet said he hopes strength with luxe brands will help BETC win clients in Asia when the micronetwork picks a spot to open there.
The next BETC shop to open will likely be in Brazil, probably in Sao Paulo. In the U.S., the agency is still deliberating, but Miami or San Francisco are the most likely options. Mr. Babinet said, "I don't want to wait too long to build something else."
BETC Euro RSCG Paris is the network's leading office, with more than 600 staff, and one of the biggest agencies in France. The BETC micronetwork will report to the Euro RSCG network, but BETC shops will be free to compete against Euro RSCG agencies.