2009 Festival of Media

Havas CEO Sees At Least Two More Years of Grey Skies

Fernando Rodes Vila Calls for Focus on Green Initiatives in Meantime

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VALENCIA, Spain (AdAge.com) -- Havas CEO Fernando Rodes Vila kicked off the 2009 Festival of Media with a call for greater environmental sustainability in marketing communications and a cautiously optimistic take on the global economy.

Fernando Rodes Vila
Fernando Rodes Vila
The head of the French advertising conglomerate opened the third annual installment of the conference, which, the organizers say, is expected to bring in about 580 attendees from media sellers, media agencies and marketers. This is its first time in this Spanish city, after two go-rounds in Venice.

Mr. Rodes focused on -- what else? -- the recession and what steps need to be taken to quicken the world's escape from its grasp.

Bleary-eyed attendees, either battling a case of jet lag or the consequences of a late-night bender, heard Mr. Rodes describe the world's current economic condition in meteorological terms: "There's still some fog and stormy weather coming and some confusion, but there are blue skies in there."

Mr. Rodes said the situation is unlike anything anyone born after 1930 has seen before, causing a great level of confusion for everyone. "We're not sure if we should stop or invest," he said. He said the two key forces driving the global recession are the "speed of circulation of money" -- or the speed at which credit is being handed out to consumers -- and that consumption is way down.

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"In 2007 money was moving at about 200 kilometers an hour and now it's at about three kilometers an hour," he said. "Consumption and speed of money are stopping the [economic] engine from starting and it will be two to three years before those factors turn around."

"The cars we build today were conceived in 1930 and those values are no longer real," Mr. Rodes went on to say about why consumers are stuck in outmoded thinking. "This is a metaphor for our way of life and it will clearly put a reduction in the speed of our future growth."

Mr. Rodes said sustainability has to remain high on the list of priorities for marketers and the agencies working with them. Citing a recent study by Havas done in 11 major markets around the world, he said that more than one-third of the people surveyed cited sustainability was a major concern for them.

"Companies who are committed and respect the environment will be favored by consumers," he said, referencing the study. "And in most markets, consumers are ready to reward companies who do right by the environment."

He said the study clearly revealed that consumers understand the concept of sustainability and that more major players, such as Walmart, do as well.

Conveying those messages to consumers is a new ballgame and consumers are wielding more power in the new communication paradigm, he said.

Noting that the old model of carpet-bombing consumers with a message is gone, he said the drivers of this new communications paradigm are consumer networks and the interaction within those networks, consumer contribution, interpretive dialogue and simplicity.

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