For the firm formerly known as Havas Life Metro, 2020 was all about reimagining the way it goes about its business, from positioning and approach to name and branding. Fueled by an infusion of upper-level talent from CDM, the company set out to reinvent itself. By year’s end, it was reborn as Havas Life New York. 

“All change is cause for reinvention,” says group president Denise Henry, one of the three arrivals from CDM. “So when the pandemic hit, we focused on reimagining the agency as we see it. Instead of running away or being trepidatious about what this new world was, we sat down and asked, ‘What can we do to push ourselves forward?’”

In the wake of those conversations, creative, customer experience and content strategy became the three main prongs of Havas Life New York’s new approach. The agency then refined its positioning (“relentlessly driven to create experiences that help people thrive”) and articulated its five core values (brilliance, mastery, heart, hustle and badassness). 

Havas Life New York

With the new name came a new look. Chief creative officer and chief experience officer Chris Palmer, another of the CDM additions, was charged with “taking the agency’s creative abilities and reputation up a whole bunch of notches,” he says. The main goal: to create a branding language that popped in a virtual environment, one that would prompt an immediate “oh, that’s Havas!” reaction. 

“The value of creativity has never been more important in our business,” he continues. “It’s definitely a differentiator now for any player in this game.”

To better align its creative focus with customer experience and content strategy, the agency brought in Tanya Schaffer (also from CDM) to serve as EVP, customer experience. Owing to the resources of the larger Havas network, Schaffer can tap “not five or 10, but 100 specialists in the world of customer service,” Henry reports.

Havas Life New York counted an assignment from UCB Pharma among the additions to its roster, which also includes work from Pfizer, Novartis and Sanofi Pasteur. Revenue increased from an MM+M-estimated $37.5 million in 2019 to an estimated $38.5 million in 2020. Of the agency’s 23 client engagements, 21 are in an AOR capacity. 

“To be a part of brands that have a material impact on this moment is a big adventure,” Palmer says.

Internally, Havas Life New York devoted considerable attention to activities grouped under the banner of “people growth.” They included mentorship initiatives and other opportunities to maintain connectivity amid the virtual work environment. 

“When you’re working from home, you lose a bit of that feeling of moving ahead. We as leaders spent a lot of one-on-one time with staff, helping them set their goals,” explains president Michael McNamara.

The extra (remote) face time paid off. “We’ve had more promotions this year than ever before,” Palmer notes. “It’s been a year of profound career growth for our people.”

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The idea I wish I had…

The Clubhouse app is a great platform for engagement. We believe in the power of creativity and connecting with people through our voices. When we focus on what people are saying instead of just waiting for our turn to talk, we become smarter and more enlightened. — Denise Henry