Havas New York hires creative trio in bid to boost diversity and culture
Havas New York has hired Marcelo Ramirez and Bharat Kumar as executive creative directors and Melissa Tifrere as head of integrated production. Kumar and Ramirez were most recently creative directors at Johannes Leonardo and previously also served as VP-creative directors at Momentum Worldwide. Tifrere, an independent executive producer, has worked with agencies including 72andSunny, BBDO, Joan and Translation.
The trio marks the first hires for Havas New York’s Chief Creative Officer Dan Lucey, who joined the agency late last year.
Over their 30 years, Ramirez and Kumar have worked together on numerous accounts including Nike, Coca-Cola, American Express and MassMutual. One of their most notable works, “Church of Hoops” for Nike, won the duo a Cannes Lion Grand Prix award in 2019.
Lucey says he wants to bring in creatives who shared his vision of creating “meaningful work that gets into culture.”
“I was always jealous of the activation [Ramirez and Kumar] did for American Express,” Lucey says. “American Express Assurance for NBA jerseys is a great idea. Playing on a cultural theme is really relevant and meaningful to a certain audience, and that’s the NBA audience. I thought it was not only super smart, and not only fun, but also [liked] what it said about the brand—it’s in touch with what’s going on in the world and [it’s] got your back.”
Lucey hopes the team brings that same creativity to the Keurig and Green Mountain Coffee accounts. Lucey’s vision is to produce activations that “create a dialogue,” he says; for example, Keurig teaming up with five local coffee roasters, creating three different products and selling them on its platform as a way to support local businesses during the pandemic.
“Those are the ideas I love. We need work that resonates with our audience,” Lucey says. “I don’t believe advertising should be quiet and I don’t think advertising should rely on a captive audience.”
Over the past few years Havas has had some tumult within its ranks. Last July, the company announced Havas Creative North American Chairman-CEO Paul Marobella would be exiting and his role eliminated. In the same month, the company laid off 150-200 people across mainly its U.S. offices. Prior to that, former Havas North America Co-Chairman and Chief Creative Officer Jason Peterson departed the agency in 2018.
The new hires are part of Havas’ intent to bridge the diversity gap within the holding company, and also improve its culture.
In July, Havas Group released the diversity makeup of its U.S. staff, showing only 2.7% of its executives and directors are Black, while 8.2% are Hispanic or Latinx, 9.7% are Asian and the majority, nearly 76%, are white. A month later, the holding company appointed a North American diversity, equity and inclusion advisory committee, that includes executives from across its agencies including Havas New York, Arnold, Havas Canada, Havas Health & You and Havas Chicago.
“DEI is important at Havas,” Lucey says. “I’m focused on bringing in diverse talent. There will be some diverse hires in the works and these hires are diverse. It’s incredibly important to have different points of view in the agency.”
Behind the scenes Havas New York is taking steps to prioritize their employees’ morale and careers. In January it implemented a Zoom-out where employees are encouraged to take a breather by not scheduling meetings from 2pm-6pm every Thursday.
Lucey also plans on scheduling a weekly or biweekly mentorship programs, led by Ramirez and Kumar where young creatives will be able to discuss “things they’re having trouble with, career advice, it also gives them an opportunity to work on more than one thing which is great for young creatives to get a well-rounded experience and be bold,” Lucey says.