Havas new broom David Jones positions himself on the side of the angels

Which is quite a feat for an adman but Jones, the boss of Euro RSCG who took over as CEO of Havas this year, has clearly decided that the best way to differentiate Havas from its bigger marcoms rivals is to be the consumer’s, indeed the world’s, best friend.

His latest initiative is a forthcoming book, Who Cares Wins, which sets out to show, among other things no doubt, that brand owners need to do more than simply persuade consumers to buy their products.

Jones says: “People want to be loved and liked and have values associated with it. There will be people who want brands as badges, and what we can do is change what those badges stand for.”

He says there is now the opportunity for companies to encourage consumers to make more ‘sustainable’ choices and transform brand relationships to deliver more responsible behaviour.

This keys in with another Jones initiative, One World Forum, which seeks to identify ‘young leaders’ and introduce them to grizzled old captains of industry and some new research from its ‘Meaningful Brand Index’ produced by Havas Media Labs which purports to show the ‘real’ levels of consumer attachment to leading brands.

In this the mighty Coca-Cola comes only 20th because only 35 per cent of the 17,000 people surveyed reckoned it ‘expanded their quality of life.’ As opposed to being a nice-tasting soft drink perhaps.

Havas Media Labs reckons only 20 per cent of brands have a ‘notable positive impact,’ calculated by surveying their impact on things like health, happiness, values, financial security, society and the environment.

Ikea, Google, Nestle and Danone come top in the survey while Samsung, Microsoft and Sony beat Apple, findings that will surely surprise both Nestle and Apple.

Such surveys can seem very silly of course but Havas and Jones have clearly detected which way the wind is blowing in corporate parlours, Unilever CEO Paul Polman has been signed up for this year’s One World forum and the company’s newly-appointed deputy CMO Marc Mathieu is a ‘sustainability’ expert.

Havas itself is putting most of its efforts into boosting its social media and digital credentials, partly through a repositioning of its number two agency network Arnold Worldwide.

Havas recently reported good third quarter figures although my colleague Stuart Smith noticed some flaws in its arithmetic. Will Jones’ various initiatives enable it to catch the likes of Publicis Groupe and Interpublic, let alone giants WPP and Omnicom?

It’s a big ask but a good strategy, if you’re being outspent and therefore outgunned, is to try to move the pitch. Which is what Jones seems to be trying to do.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.