After independent media and PR agency Lassoo took the Emirates account off Starcom last month, it looked fairly certain that it had some kind of connection to French holding company Havas, which won Emirates' global media account last year. At the time, Lassoo's directors weren't able to comment, but now it has officially announced a strategic alliance and will act as the New Zealand arm of Havas Media Group.
Founded over a decade ago by Bridgette Franklin and Anna St George, Lassoo, which also has an office in Australia, has focused on the convergence between media, PR and digital and works with clients including Red Bull, Sleepyhead, Cavalier Bremworth and Southern Cross Travel Insurance. But St George says this "mutually beneficial supply arrangement" is about taking the next step.
"We've been in the market for 12 years now, so it's kind of like 'where to now? What else can we offer our clients?'"
In its simplest form, Franklin says Havas Media Group (formerly MPG) needed a dot on the map and Lassoo needed to add some global resource in terms of digital, media and research to keep its existing (and future) clients happy. It had been looking for a local partner for around 18 months and approached Lassoo.
Havas Media Group, which operates a range of different brands like Mobext (mobile) Socialyse (social) and Affiperf (Havas’s trading desk), "brings together digital, data and content in what can be a confusing landscape to navigate", says St George, and Lassoo will be able to tap into that through its Meaningful Brands framework and analysis.
"That's the way the world is going," says Franklin. "From our side, we feel like we need those types of systems in place."
While the two entities are poles apart in terms of scale, St George says they're both challenger brands "trying to make their way against the big guys".
Franklin and St George were quick to point out that no money changed hands as part of the deal and while both parties are "feeling their way" at this early stage of the arrangement, they say they will guard Lassoo's independence fiercely.
"If Havas says 'you have to work with this client', we have the right to say no," says St George. "We're proudly independent and that independence is important to our current clients."
But if the deal gives it the opportunity to work with more big clients like Emirates (last year Havas Group won new business like Unilever's Dove, Total, LG Electronics, LVMH and others), it's hard to see them saying no unless there's a conflict.
This is a good—and much cheaper—way for Havas to test the water in this market, so is anything stopping it from opening up its own office in the future? No, says St George, but she says Havas liked the local knowledge, ownership and heart that went into the company. And Lassoo liked the fact that Havas understood the need for a local presence in New Zealand and didn't just run the business out of Australia.
"We are very excited about our future with Lassoo and having a presence in the New Zealand market," says Vishnu Mohan, chief executive of Havas Media Group, Asia Pacific. "We have been considering our growth options in the region for some time and wanted to join forces with a respected team who share our philosophy and ambitions.”
Lassoo will work closely with newly-formed Havas Media Group Australia, which is headed by former head of Naked Mike Wilson, on the Trans-Tasman offering for existing and new clients.
Havas Media Group has grown from ten markets in 1999 to 126 markets in 2013 and is made up of Havas Media, Havas Sports & Entertainment and Arena Mobile.
Havas Creative Group incorporates the Havas Worldwide network (formerly Euro RSCG Worldwide, 316 offices in 75 countries), the Arnold Worldwide micronetwork (16 agencies in 15 countries), as well as other agencies with strong local identities.
Havas Group by the numbers
- 2013 revenue: €1,772 million
- Organic growth: +1.0%
- Digital weight: 26% of revenue
- Net New Business: €1,375 million