Euro RSCG Is No. 2 on the Ad Age Agency A-List

This Old-School Network Figured Out How to Make Digital Work, and It Beat the Specialists at Their Own Game

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NEW YORK ( -- More than five years ago, Havas, the Paris-based parent of agency network Euro RSCG, announced the formation of Euro RSCG 4D, a unit to house the shop's below-the-line digital, direct and promotion services under one roof. The move was meant to offer clients better-integrated marketing solutions, but soon after the unit was launched, Euro's operations, especially in the U.S., began losing ground digitally to specialist shops.

David Jones
Sam Hadley
GLOBAL CEO: David Jones
CLIENTS: IBM, Volvo, Lacoste, Kraft
"Unfortunately, we started paying too much attention to the articles about how clever we were and didn't pay attention to actually staying at the forefront of digital," admitted David Jones, global CEO of Havas Worldwide and Euro RSCG Worldwide. So the agency did two things: It got over itself and it brought 4D -- with a renewed focus on building out digital expertise -- back inside the broader shop, where it now appears to have cracked a code others haven't.

In a surprise move in November, tech giant IBM moved digital-marketing responsibilities from Digitas to Euro RSCG. That capped a yearlong turn for Euro in North America during which it earned a reputation as a big, digital-savvy agency capable of beating pure players at their own game.

Euro's range of offerings gives it the ability to grasp the bigger marketing picture that many digital-only agencies are criticized as lacking. Yet, within the scale of the big network sits a strong digital offering. "Fundamentally, digital is too important to have in silo," said Mr. Jones.

It's a belief that stems from an experiment Mr. Jones tried more than a decade ago in Australia, inserting a traditional shop inside an interactive one, rather than alongside it. "This is digital taking over the agency -- not the other way around," said Mr. Jones. "We're pitching and beating the Digitases and Razorfishes of the world. That's the really unique thing."

See work from Euro RSCG on Creativity.

For IBM, Euro "brought a global footprint and what we viewed as a 'web-first' approach in their thinking and work," said John Kennedy, VP-corporate marketing at IBM. "The relationship is off to a good start."

Euro was also the only network with traditional roots named to Unilever's first global digital roster of agencies in December. Other achievements: Telecom giant Sprint handed over digital duties (it had already handled direct marketing), previously at Omnicom Group's Tequila; the launch of the first fully digital U.S. campaign for retailer Lacoste; and the biggest viral sensation of the year, Evian's "Roller Babies." That ad originated in Euro's Paris office but the agency's U.S. locations pitched in on the feeding strategy. The "Guinness World Records" calls "Roller Babies" the most-viewed online ad to date, lapping Burger King's "Subservient Chicken" with a whopping 45 million views.

With all the attention it's getting for first-class digital capabilities, you'd think Euro might have forgotten how to craft a print ad. Not so, clients say.

"Certain agencies are known for their strategic excellence, creative out-of-the-box thinking or ability," said Christian MacMahon, chief marketing officer at Heineken USA, which in 2009 named Euro its traditional and digital agency for the Heineken family of brands. "I really admire [Euro's] balance. They are strategically very strong, from an account standpoint second-to-none, and creatively outstanding. You don't just get one strength and they overplay it. They are an extremely well-balanced agency."

Under the leadership of Ron Bess, who was promoted to president of Euro RSCG North America last year, the agency's Chicago and New York offices went from being disparate parts under the same umbrella to working more collaboratively. That helped Euro pull off a 5% to 6% revenue bump for the region in 2009. It made some of its biggest hires in years, poaching industry talents like Fernanda Romano from JWT and Marian Salzman from Porter Novelli to head digital creative and PR, respectively. Euro is also making progress with new, non-advertising sources of revenue such as its in-house record label "The Hours," whose bands are scoring hits on iTunes and crafting songs for Euro clients Lacoste and Kraft.

Evolving messaging
But most critically, Euro has proven it could step up its digital offering without compromising broad, integrated campaigns for the likes of five-year financial client Charles Schwab that net real business results.

"In the last year and a half, people's feelings about money and saving and investing was like a roller coaster ... what Euro did was nothing short of heroic in helping us evolve our messaging and campaign three times in that time, and they were undaunted by the challenge," said Becky Saeger, exec VP-CMO at Schwab.

"They do what is the right fit for the brand," said Heineken's Mr. MacMahon. Euro -- which despite the recession helped Heineken's Dos Equis brand grow case sales 17% with the popular "Most Interesting Man" campaign -- is cranking on a campaign for Heineken lager to debut in March.

The new Heineken work isn't the only thing we'll be watching closely: Industry watchers speculate that 2010 will mark the year Euro's parent, Havas, will finally merge with Aegis. That move could provide some synergies between Euro and Aegis' Isobar digital arm. If it can make that merger work, and avoid the mistake of thinking it's too clever, Euro just might stay at the top of the agency game.

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