Havas Media Grows Through “Meaningful Media” Research

A series of interviews with creative and marketing innovators at the 2019 Cannes Lions Creativity Festival: Peter Mears, Global CEO, Havas Media Group.

Bruce Rogers: What’s state of the Havas Media’s business?

Peter Mears: Despite the challenges facing the industry, business remains good. I joined Havas Media Group two years ago and took on the role of Global CEO at the beginning of 2018. Over that period, we’ve seen strong growth in major markets like the U.S., U.K., France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Latin America.

Rogers: So, what is the leading reason for new business? What is the point of differentiation that you have going in?

Mears: Our story has a couple of major narratives. One is our ownership. We’re part of Vivendi, which allows us a to come in at a different starting point. The Vivendi ownership closed in the third quarter last year. Now that we’re a wholly owned unit within the group, it certainly gives us a different scale and unique access in the marketplace. The relationship provides us with unparalleled insight into a very important target audience.

The other important part of our narrative centers on what we call “Meaningful Media.” Havas has ten years of equity in the meaningful brand space. Our Meaningful Brands research, first started back in 2009, is an annual survey that examines the role brands play for consumers. And the major data point coming from this research is that consumers couldn’t care less about brands. In fact, 74% of brands could disappear tomorrow, and consumers wouldn’t care.

Meaningful Brands are more successful, so how do we build a meaningful brand? If we’re honest, we’ve had ten years of the Meaningful Brands study, but have struggled a bit to operationalize and leverage it.

 

What we’ve been very focused on for the last six to 12 months is, knowing that meaningful brands have more success, how do we really drive that into media? How can we create meaningful media experiences that helps brands become more impactful for consumers?

We introduced new research on this topic as “Meaningful Media.” If all brands are really interested in growth and choose to spend all this money on media despite consumer resistance to media and advertising, there’s a disconnection here.

We all talk about content. We all talk about media. But it’s been slightly divorced from the job of media planning. Going into that research, we hypothesized that some media carries more meaning than others in a world where streaming is happening all over the place, ads are being blocked, and fraud is a concern.

It’s an interesting jumping off point for us to think about which media is more meaningful. We’re on a mission to leverage our learnings and really help clients maximize the output of that research.

Rogers: Can you provide some context around putting this research into action?

Mears: About six months ago, we launched a project called Media Experience, or Mx, which is our new philosophy around what work that we should be doing for clients, on the heels of our Meaningful Media research. Mx looks at the connection that we’re going to make with the target audience, the context in which we’re going to reach them, and the content that we’re going to leverage. We believe those three factors will deliver a meaningful media experience for consumers.

Rogers: Most people in media don’t talk about human beings. They talk targets and gross rating points.

Mears: I think the mechanics of media have gotten in the way of the art, and that has proved detrimental to our industry. Most media agencies very proudly proclaim that their machine is better than your machine. We are proud of our machine as well. We have wonderful access to data. But for us, that human layer that you mentioned is super important. This approach really resonates with our clients because, ultimately, media is a part of consumers’ lives. Understanding media’s human impact allows us to activate on the idea of meaningful media. In fact, we’re presenting it in what we call the Meaningful Rating Point (MRP).

Rogers: Linear TV isn’t to that stage yet, but are we heading in that direction? What about digital media?

Mears: Absolutely, yeah. The same logic follows through in the digital space. We’ve created another tool called the Meaningful Digital Matrix. It provides us with a way to look at all of the different research available in the digital space and understand the most relevant, meaningful ways to use different digital media, partners, and contexts.

Our new way of working is Mx, which allows us to build more effective media experiences for clients to help them work. There’s a process and system behind this new philosophy and approach. There are tools behind what I’ve just described as well.

Rogers: Tell us about your personal journey to the role of Global CEO of Havas Media.

Mears: I started in this business 25 years ago. I’m a media guy, and I’m a media planner. I started like that and still think of myself that way today. And that’s what I get excited about and passionate about. I’ve always worked in media agencies. I was with Omnicom for more than 15 years, IPG for seven, and then joined Havas two years ago. When I started out, I worked for a small media independent, and media was sexy. Media was almost sexier than creative. And then we went through the digital explosion with data, business intelligence, programmatic, and social. Now, I find myself in 2019, and the craft of media is all of a sudden really important again. And that, to me, is personallygratifying, exciting, and motivating.

Rogers: Where did you grow up?

Mears:  I grew up in the suburbs of southeast London. I’m the son of a psychotherapist and an engineer, which is the perfect creation for a media person. I grew up thinking I wanted to work in advertising. After I graduated University, I went straight into a media agency.

What I loved about my first job as a media planner – and still love today – is understanding humans. The ability to build that bridge from an insight to a great idea still gets me fired up today. When I sit in pitches with our teams and see the work, you can see that energy, pride, and excitement in the work that we’ve done, and clients get fired up about it too. We’re engineering how to better connect with human beings and understand their motivations.

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is this one major moment in the year where we get to celebrate and enjoy our industry.

Rogers: Thank you.