Vincent Bollore, billionaire French industrialist and chairman of Havas Group, has assigned Havas City, Paris, to work on the advertising and communications for Groupe Bollore's famed electric-car project, the Blue Car, which will be available later this year through a car-sharing system in Paris called Autolib.
Havas City was chosen to avoid conflict with another Havas Group client, Peugeot, which manufactures its own electric cars, the iOn and the BB1. ( BETC Euro RSCG in Paris handles the bulk of the account, although Euro RSCG in Dusseldorf, Germany, has also worked on the iOn brand.) But dodging a conflict might well be the easy part for the agency, which now has the task of communicating a relatively new concept of electric-car sharing to Parisians.
Though the city has an established bike-sharing program, this venture may take some explaining. Under Autolib -- which represents a $150 million investment for Mr. Bollore -- subscribers pay $17 a month, plus $7 per half hour for use of the car and a refundable deposit of $212. Hundreds of electric cars will be available at specially designed charging pods across the French capital in an attempt to curb congestion and pollution in the city. But unlike bikes, which run under people power, the process of renting and recharging the Blue Cars will require some strong communication from Havas City. The benefit to Mr. Bollore, of course, is that Paris could serve as a testing ground to eliminate bugs before a larger-scale launch of the Blue Car.
Havas City was originally set up as a conflict shop when Havas Group worked simultaneously on the business of two French supermarket rivals, Carrefour and Monoprix. It was founded in early 2009 to handle Monoprix, though shortly afterwards Havas Group lost its share of the $1 billion Carrefour business to Publicis Groupe . Havas City still works with Monoprix, while its other main client is high-speed train operator Thalys.
Mr. Bollore has been working on his own electric car project for more than 15 years, and owns factories in western France and Canada to build batteries for the electric cars and their batteries. He bought a controlling stake in Havas Group six years ago, and shortly afterwards became a major shareholder in British-based rival Aegis Group.
BETC Euro RSCG also handles advertising for the Peugeot Mu, Peugeot's own car club and rental scheme, which is up and running in various cities in France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the U.K. BETC Euro RSCG recently produced a "flashmob" spot exhorting consumers to "Join the Muve."