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Agency Life

INVESTING IN IMAGINATION

INVESTING IN IMAGINATION

Sulaiman Beg

Sulaiman Beg

January 14, 2020

Global Chief Integration Officer and CEO of Havas Belgium, Christian de la Villehuchet, on why human imagination is the industry’s most valuable asset.

"Advertising is about understanding others, touching their hearts and souls, and doing it over and over again"

The Global CIO and CEO of Havas Belgium, Christian de La Villehuchet, talks about his career journey into marketing, and why AI will never surpass the value of human creativity when it comes to connecting with audiences.

 

Where are you from and how did your upbringing shape who you are today?

I am a born and bred Parisian, educated in a Jesuit college for 14 years. It has all been about excellence and competition, but also, true humanity and respect for others. I try—and don’t always succeed—to apply those principles to my everyday life.

Did you always want to work in advertising?

No, I started as a product manager at Henkel after graduating from business school (HEC Paris)—that is, until my boss told me that I was not there to have ideas, but to execute hers! I left right away. I love advertising because it is about understanding others, touching their hearts and souls, and doing it over and over again.

How did you find your way into the industry?

I started in a UK agency, WCRS. It was all about great work and great wins through amazing pitches. There, I was placed on the new business team and became passionate about creative work and putting teams together, which has only grown throughout my career.

Tell us a little about your role(s) at Havas?

My role is Global Chief Integration Officer. It has three main components. The first is to support the transformation of our group through our Village strategy. This involves seamlessly bringing the best global talent together to serve clients and acting as a pilot for the culture of the business. Secondly, I build and manage our acquisition strategy to generate meaningful growth for our group. And finally, my role involves integrating Havas into Vivendi through management synergies and business opportunities. I am also the CEO of Havas Belgium, where I live; however, this is more of a chairman role today.

You were recently appointed a as member of the board of EACA (European Association of Communication Agencies). How do you envision Havas partnering more with EACA, and pulling in our partners at Vivendi?

The EACA is the voice of Europe’s communication agencies and associations, compromising of creative, media, digital, and health. EACA is also home to the Effie Awards Europe, which celebrates the effectiveness of advertising across the continent. This is the first time Havas holds a seat on the board and I want to make the most of it in terms of advocating our profile, connecting with the most senior talents, and winning awards across Europe.

"Let’s face it, Artificial Intelligence will never replace human imagination"

With this new role, what are your top priorities?

I want to make sure we defend the industry; that we advocate its cause in all areas, including legislation in Europe; and, of course, that we put Havas at the forefront of the change-makers in the industry.

You’ve served on Havas’ Global Creative Council for a few years now. How do you define creativity?

For me, creativity is about making an impact and awakening emotion. Being creative is being innovative, well crafted, and socially engaging so our ideas spark conversation. That’s what makes meaningful brands in 2020.

What’s the advertising industry in Belgium like? How does it differ from New York or Paris?

It’s a small market with two cultures and two languages. It’s highly complex. Clients don’t have big budgets, so you need to be powerful with your work. It’s multicultural, but also transcultural. Belgium is the heart of Europe and that’s where the border between the Anglo-Saxon and the Latin cultures lies. Only big ideas that can transcend cultures can succeed here. It is a great creative market with great creative agencies.

What’s an overlooked aspect of this industry?

Data and Artificial Intelligence. It is obviously absolutely important to be smarter about our targets and predictive about trends, and it’s great to interact as much as possible with all that AI enables us to do. But let’s face it, Artificial Intelligence will never replace human imagination. Look at the greatest innovation in history—our business is about great ideas that move people. They come from us!

On the flip side, is there an industry trend that you wish would go away?

Insourcing! Clients need people who can challenge them, not clones. It is our duty to have great talent to make advertisers realize this.

What do you do to relax?

I have a fantastic family and I just love spending time with them. I particularly love traveling, which might seem strange, as I travel for business 180 days a year. But the world is big enough!

And to wrap it up, what’s your life mantra/motto?

I have many but I will leave you with this one: Optimism is a moral obligation! It is written in big in pink letters in my office.

"Advertising is about understanding others, touching their hearts and souls, and doing it over and over again"

The Global CIO and CEO of Havas Belgium, Christian de La Villehuchet, talks about his career journey into marketing, and why AI will never surpass the value of human creativity when it comes to connecting with audiences.

 

Where are you from and how did your upbringing shape who you are today?

I am a born and bred Parisian, educated in a Jesuit college for 14 years. It has all been about excellence and competition, but also, true humanity and respect for others. I try—and don’t always succeed—to apply those principles to my everyday life.

Did you always want to work in advertising?

No, I started as a product manager at Henkel after graduating from business school (HEC Paris)—that is, until my boss told me that I was not there to have ideas, but to execute hers! I left right away. I love advertising because it is about understanding others, touching their hearts and souls, and doing it over and over again.

How did you find your way into the industry?

I started in a UK agency, WCRS. It was all about great work and great wins through amazing pitches. There, I was placed on the new business team and became passionate about creative work and putting teams together, which has only grown throughout my career.

Tell us a little about your role(s) at Havas?

My role is Global Chief Integration Officer. It has three main components. The first is to support the transformation of our group through our Village strategy. This involves seamlessly bringing the best global talent together to serve clients and acting as a pilot for the culture of the business. Secondly, I build and manage our acquisition strategy to generate meaningful growth for our group. And finally, my role involves integrating Havas into Vivendi through management synergies and business opportunities. I am also the CEO of Havas Belgium, where I live; however, this is more of a chairman role today.

You were recently appointed a as member of the board of EACA (European Association of Communication Agencies). How do you envision Havas partnering more with EACA, and pulling in our partners at Vivendi?

The EACA is the voice of Europe’s communication agencies and associations, compromising of creative, media, digital, and health. EACA is also home to the Effie Awards Europe, which celebrates the effectiveness of advertising across the continent. This is the first time Havas holds a seat on the board and I want to make the most of it in terms of advocating our profile, connecting with the most senior talents, and winning awards across Europe.

"Let’s face it, Artificial Intelligence will never replace human imagination"

With this new role, what are your top priorities?

I want to make sure we defend the industry; that we advocate its cause in all areas, including legislation in Europe; and, of course, that we put Havas at the forefront of the change-makers in the industry.

You’ve served on Havas’ Global Creative Council for a few years now. How do you define creativity?

For me, creativity is about making an impact and awakening emotion. Being creative is being innovative, well crafted, and socially engaging so our ideas spark conversation. That’s what makes meaningful brands in 2020.

What’s the advertising industry in Belgium like? How does it differ from New York or Paris?

It’s a small market with two cultures and two languages. It’s highly complex. Clients don’t have big budgets, so you need to be powerful with your work. It’s multicultural, but also transcultural. Belgium is the heart of Europe and that’s where the border between the Anglo-Saxon and the Latin cultures lies. Only big ideas that can transcend cultures can succeed here. It is a great creative market with great creative agencies.

What’s an overlooked aspect of this industry?

Data and Artificial Intelligence. It is obviously absolutely important to be smarter about our targets and predictive about trends, and it’s great to interact as much as possible with all that AI enables us to do. But let’s face it, Artificial Intelligence will never replace human imagination. Look at the greatest innovation in history—our business is about great ideas that move people. They come from us!

On the flip side, is there an industry trend that you wish would go away?

Insourcing! Clients need people who can challenge them, not clones. It is our duty to have great talent to make advertisers realize this.

What do you do to relax?

I have a fantastic family and I just love spending time with them. I particularly love traveling, which might seem strange, as I travel for business 180 days a year. But the world is big enough!

And to wrap it up, what’s your life mantra/motto?

I have many but I will leave you with this one: Optimism is a moral obligation! It is written in big in pink letters in my office.

Sulaiman Beg is Havas' Director of Global Internal Communications. He has never eaten canned tuna fish.

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