|Photo: Derek Hudson|
Much of Euro RSCG's success, such as the global win of Reckitt Benckiser, comes from (l. to r.), Remi Babinet, David Jones, Mercedes Erra and Stephane Fouks.
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Agency networks fall largely into two opposing quadrants, Mr. Jones says. In one are what he calls "the large, process-driven places like McCann or Y&R"; in the other are creative networks such as Bartle Bogle Hegarty or Fallon -- "ideas shops," he calls them. Marketers today increasingly want ideas that play to a global audience, which has spurred the growth of the world's Bartle Bogle Hegartys. But neither the process-driven giants nor their smaller, nimbler competitors truly satisfy big marketers' need for both ideas and global reach.
Wrapping up his argument, Mr. Jones states: "The world has moved in our favor: Euro" -- which in his four-quadrant diagram sits in the upper right square somewhere between the likes of McCann and BBH -- "is both entrepreneurial and global." He smiles. Done. Whew. Less than two minutes.
Mr. Jones' cellphone rings. He answers it in French and tells his wife, Karine, he'll call her back. Switching back to English, he explains a bit apologetically: "I always take her calls because I'm always thinking she'll say that our son Alphonse has fallen and hit his head or something. She always says, 'No!' when I answer, so that way I know it's not an emergency, and it's OK to call her back." Mr. Jones laughs lightly, a tacit acknowledgment of his busy life and the shorthand communication he uses to keep up, then returns to the topic of Euro. "We've been a bit too much of a well-kept secret," he says.
Overshadoweed by Havas
It's a polite description for a network overshadowed and, some argue, hobbled in recent years by the activities of management at its parent company, Havas. Under former Chairman-CEO Alain de Pouzilhac, the holding company from 1998-2001 embarked on an expensive and ill-fated acquisition strategy, a big factor in Mr. de Pouzilhac's 2005 ouster.
Euro today generates nearly 70% of Havas' revenue, which hit $1.3 billion for the first nine months of 2006. Euro was founded in 1991 when Eurocom, parent of a group of communications companies, purchased French advertising group RSCG. Via acquisition, Euro has grown into a company whose 230 offices span 75 countries. For much of its young life, however, the network has been regarded as a motley collection of generally uncollaborative offices.
Until now. Marketers' increased willingness to consider alternatives to global networks, as well as more money and interest in Euro RSCG from Havas' new chairman, financier-industrialist Vincent Bollore, helped Euro in 2006 come into its own around the globe. The highest-profile proof: Euro's June win of the consolidated global $728 million Reckitt Benckiser account, a piece of business that spans more than 60 countries, after a five-month fight against big guys JWT and McCann Erickson Worldwide.
Other new global Euro RSCG clients include ExxonMobil, Alcatel-Lucent, LG and Orange Business Services, as well as additional work from Jaguar and Sanofi Aventis.
Best year since 2000
For the network, 2006 was its best year since 2000, Mr. Jones says, with some key offices, including New York and Paris, posting double-digit growth.
"We've put some money in the company, given power to a new generation and explained to them that what doesn't impress us is one year but the next 10," says Mr. Bollore, head of the French conglomerate Bollore Group, who, with a 25.4% stake, is Havas' largest shareholder.
Mr. Jones, 40, is a major catalyst of change at Euro. Bright, indefatigable and described by one agency consultant as "like [ BBDO Worldwide President-CEO] Andrew Robertson without the impish grin," Mr. Jones, a Brit, arrived in the U.S. from London in September 2004 to run Euro, New York, and ascended to the network's top post in August 2005. Fluent in German and French as well as his native English, Mr. Jones possesses a global sensibility that meshes well with Euro's very un-American culture.
He's been crucial to the wins in recent years (Charles Schwab & Co.'s U.S. account in December 2004 and the global Jaguar business in March 2005) that revved the network up for a knockout 2006.
'Re-energized the agency'
Reckitt Exec VP-Europe Elio Leoni-Sceti, a longtime supporter of Mr. Jones, first noticed him in 2002 when Euro pitched and won a good portion of Reckitt's global business. Mr. Leoni-Sceti back then plucked Mr. Jones from the pitch team to run the account. "He's a great guy because he cares," says Mr. Leoni-Sceti. "He's re-energized and reshaped the agency."
Despite the considerable success of the past year, challenges remain. Volvo Car Corp. early last month launched a global review, saying it wants a strong international partner in the U.S., Europe and key markets in Asia. Mr. Jones says Euro, which handles the business in North America and parts of Europe, "absolutely" intends to participate.
Success, in Mr. Jones' mind, boils down to a basic formula. "This is a simple game," he says. "Whoever has the best ideas wins. Whoever has the top talent will have the best ideas."
Throughout 2006, Mr. Jones was on a self-described "ruthless pursuit" of the industry's brightest. He scored in the U.K., bringing Mark Cadman and Russ Lidstone from JWT, London; in Shanghai, he wooed much-awarded creative director Eddy Wong from TBWA; and in New York, Avi Dan jumped onboard as global marketing chief while Jeff Brooks, former Atmosphere BBDO president, joined as CEO of Euro RSCG 4D.
Mr. Jones has also promoted existing staff-including client-services executive Kate Robertson, creative chief Jeff Kling and strategy guru Andrew Benett-into new roles. "About people, [Mr. Jones is] incredibly thoughtful, insightful and determined. He has a great sense of the right people to lead the business in the future," says one recruiter who knows Mr. Jones well.
Beyond 30-second commercials
Euro's strength in creating advertising and ideas beyond 30-second commercials is well-known outside the U.S., particularly in Europe. In France, BETC Euro, Paris, won kudos for the animated, long-form Evian commercial "Waterboy," which evolved from a traditional ad to an album that eventually went gold.The management change that in 2005 put Mr. Jones at Euro's helm also elevated the trio of French executives responsible for much of the network's European success-Mercedes Erra, now executive co-chairman of Euro RSCG Worldwide; Stephane Fouks, executive co-chairman of the network; and Remi Babinet, chief creative officer for the network.
Euro's ability to tease out insights on how consumers use Reckitt Benckiser brands and recommend strategies on how best to expand sales was a primary reason why Euro became Reckitt's sole network.
"We are a very hands-on business. We expect that our partners are involved," says Rakesh Kapoor, exec VP-category development at Reckitt. An insight from a Euro team on how Reckitt's Vanish Oxy-Action stain remover works spurred a sales strategy that both eliminated the need for Reckitt to buy expensive shelf space in favor of direct-response TV and positioned the product as an everyday, rather than niche, product. Today, Oxy-Action is one of Reckitt's biggest brands.
For Jaguar, Euro embarked on an extensive image campaign to reposition the Jag for its next-generation vehicles. Though U.S. sales of Jaguars declined for the first 11 months of 2006, Mike O'Driscoll, president of Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover North America, says Euro is on target with the long-term strategy. "They're not just a company that can deliver good ads," he says. "Whether it's a New Year's evening soiree in South Beach or an event at the Oscars, they've shown themselves capable in every channel."
One of the greatest hurdles
One of the greatest hurdles Mr. Jones faces is making Euro into a cohesive network that functions as one. It is "a work in progress," says Ms. Robertson, Euro's U.K. chairman and confidante of Mr. Jones. One step to reaching that goal is the creation and use of a common set of tools and strategies developed by Mr. Benett and Marianne Hurstel, co-global chief strategic officers.
One of these, called the Brand Activation process, helps marketers understand how customers experience their brands. The agency throughout the past year has held a series of workshops with Schwab employees, explaining the brand's values, the actions and policies that should be used when communicating to customers, with the goal of ensuring employees act in accordance with the brand's values.
"Our advertising will very accurately portray the experience someone will have if they come to Schwab," says Rebecca Saeger, exec VP-chief marketing officer. "We're trying to convey that what's in our advertising is real."
Mr. Jones openly admits that as he pursues the goal of making Euro the industry's biggest success story over the next five years, along the way "we'll mess up. We're bound to."
Then, as he picks up the phone to return his wife's call, he muses aloud: "When I came to New York in September 2004, I said we'd be a great story, and people openly laughed at me." He smiles, knowing that no one is laughing now.