a media industry resource

Havas Group


This profile considers the Havas advertising group.

It covers -

  • introduction
  • the group
  • studies


The New York-based Havas advertising conglomerate shares the same origins as the Havas news service (discussed here) and media group Vivendi Universal but has a separate ownership and is independent.

It encompasses advertising, marketing and public relations businesses across the globe, with most revenue coming from the US and Western Europe.

The group

The group dates from establishment in Paris by Charles Louis Havas of a book publishing, book & newspaper retailing and news service business during the 1830s. Havas moved into media buying to leverage his newspaper wholesale and retail distribution activity, and then into advertising. The family sold its interests for 7 million francs in 1879.

In 1920 Havas merged with Société Générale des Annonces advertising agency. The news service was nationalised in 1940. The state took a major stake in the publishing, distribution and advertising arms.

In 1958 the advertising arm gained greater autonomy as Havas Conseil. In 1968 it became a corporation and during 1975 was reconstituted as a holding company - Eurocom - that embraced advertising, public relations and other subsidiaries.

Eurocom was first listed on the Paris Bourse in 1982 (diluting ownership by the publishing arm) and after merging with the Goulet group acquired marketing, sales promotions, public relations and design units within and outside France.

During 1984 its alliance with Young & Rubicam (now part of WPP and then in difficulty after over-expansion) resulted in the HCM network that brought together its agencies and those in the Marsteller group.

Three years later the HCM network was widened with agencies owned by Dentsu and WCRS. In 1990 the group's brands were merged to create Eurocom Advertising, which merged with RSCG in 1991 as Euro RSCG Worldwide - operating in 27 countries. At that time the group was the largest in France and number 7 worldwide.

In 1994 it established Mediapolis, an international media buying and consulting network, in partnership with Young & Rubicam.

Two years later, just to keep everyone confused, Euro RSCG Worldwide was renamed Havas Advertising and moved its global headquarters to New York. The group operated in 63 countries with over 200 units. At that time it was acquired by engineering and infrastructure conglomerate CGE, which was rebadged as Vivendi.

Vivendi moved on the US beverage, music and film conglomerate Seagram after selling Havas' outdoor advertising operations to Paris-based J C Decaux for £652m and much of its travel agency operations to American Express.

In conjunction with Vivendi's takeover of Seagram (becoming Vivendi Universal) the advertising group merged with Media Planning and then with the Snyder Communications group.

Vivendi Universal was meanwhile selling out of Havas Advertising: the last stake was disposed of for €453m in 2001.

In April 2004 Havas announced that it would sell back to 75% of WCRS to that agency's management as part of plans to scale back Arnold Worldwide Partners, initially intended as a second worldwide agency network alongside Euro RSCG Worldwide but victim of Havas' global cost-cutting.

By the end of the following year entrepreneur Vincent Bollore had built up a 20% stake in the group, deposed the chief executive and become chairman of Havas.


There are no major English studies of Havas.