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JEAN-MARIE DRU EXPLAINS HIS DECISION

An Interview With AdAge.com

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Following his Wednesday announcement that he would not leave his post as president-CEO of TBWA Worldwide to become the new head of Havas, Jean-Marie Dru agreed to discuss his decision with AdAge.com.

Photo: Yessica Sanchez
Jean-Marie Dru has declined Havas' offer and will remain at TBWA.
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AdAge.com: When and where were you when you decided to stay at TBWA?

Dru: I was in my sitting room in my beautiful apartment near the Seine River. I was by myself and then my wife came in and I said, ‘Listen, I’m going to stay with my friends.’ That was Tuesday night.

AdAge.com: Why was the Havas offer so tempting?

Dru: You have to be French to understand that, but I’ll explain. What other country in the world do you have big advertising powerhouses? You have the U.S. and you have the U.K., but Martin Sorrell [chief executive of U.K.-based WPP Group] has bought four U.S. networks. The other only two places in the world where you have a strong solid advertising industry are Japan -- with Dentsu and Hakuhodo -- and France, with Publicis and Havas. If you look at it with an objective, this is one of the only places with strong local and worldwide powerhouses. That’s one.

The second is that Havas is seen as an institution, part of the landscape for years and years, for more than one century, and it’s highly regarded. The third is that I really believe that though it’s smaller, it’s an interesting business.

AdAge.com: As you say, it’s tough for an American to understand just how Havas is an institution. Is there an analogy?

Dru: No, that’s the point. In this country, you have a lot of companies that are well-known only by businesspeople and only five to 10 would be known by the whole public. Havas is one of them.

AdAge.com: How much of a consideration was money and compensation?

Dru: None at all. I requested that they would find a way to match the salary and benefits, the compensation package that I have at Omnicom. It is not a deal based on money.

AdAge.com: Why did you choose to stay at TBWA?

Dru: It was a choice between an interesting challenge in shaping something like Havas and a company in great shape, but one there’s still a lot to do.

AdAge.com: What objectives do you have in mind now for TBWA?

Dru: We want to stay at the top in terms of creative reputation. We are the largest Omnicom company in Asia, but we want to grow even faster. We want New York to be as strong as Los Angeles. We want to be a benchmark in terms of working with other Omnicom companies that have decided to come with us, such as Agency.com.

AdAge.com: You mentioned “a unique spirit” at TBWA in your memo to staff. What is that?

Dru: You understand that’s a tough question. We have an operating group of 10 or 15 people that run this company together, the end result of a number of mergers. Most of them have started an agency in their lifetimes so there’s a wonderful entrepreneurial spirit. I don’t like talking about disruption [Mr. Dru's theory put forth in his 1996 book called Disruption], but we all the share the outlook that we need to be creative at the strategy stage as well as campaigns.

AdAge.com: Does l’affair Havas make you look at TBWA in a different way?

Dru: No, I have a clear view of TBWA. Strangely enough, I chose TBWA again. It’s a hard question to answer because how could I be so arrogant to tell you that working for TBWA is working for the best company in the world. I understand it’s very arrogant, but we are the best and if we’re not the best we’re not very far from it. Believe me. Also, I have a lot of friends there, two most well-known being Lee Clow and John Wren. When you’re very old like me -- I’m 58 -- that’s important.

AdAge.com: Since you brought it up, you’re 58 and though you just re-committed to TBWA, are you at all thinking about your next move?

Dru: There will never be any next move. You know that, c’mon.

AdAge.com: Even within Omnicom?

Dru: I don’t think so. No.

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