Havas Wins Unilever's Global Data Account

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You’ve heard of creative and media agency pitches. Now marketers are starting to hold stand-alone data analysis pitches.

Havas Worldwide CEO David Jones confirmed that the company has just been awarded Unilever’s global data business, after a review that Jones said included a number of other holding companies, as well as some well-known management consultants that he declined to identify.

“It’s an exciting and significant win for us,” Jones said Wednesday on a conference call with analysts and investors to discuss third-quarter earnings results.

According to Jones, the scope of the assignment is to combine and analyze data from the client, which could include global sales and inventory levels and a host of other metrics. It will add third-party data from outside research and analytic firms and social media conversations that track in real-time what consumers are saying about Unilever.

The idea, Jones said, is to “package it into the marketing structure” at the client for better and quicker consumer insights and subsequent responses. The win is one example of how “data and technology are re-writing the rules for the whole world of retail.”

The amount of data -- specifically data tracking consumer behavior -- continues to grow exponentially in the digital age as consumers increasingly use digital devices to communicate, navigate, shop, buy and pay for goods and services on a routine basis.

Managing that data flow and interpreting it for clients has become a front-and-center challenge for agencies, said Jones. Having the right technology in place is critical to handling that task, he said. “We all need to change and change fast,” he said.

Jones did not disclose the revenue that the new contract with Unilever will generate. He did say that Havas had about $388 million in net new business during the third quarter and about $2 billion in net new business for the first nine months of the year. Other wins included Diet Coke’s European account and the U.S. assignment for Sovereign Santander Bank. “It’s been a good year for us” in terms of new business, he said.

Revenue for the third quarter was up nearly 11% to $546 million, while organic revenue growth for the quarter -- which excludes the impact of acquisitions, divestitures and currency fluctuations -- was 2%. For the first nine months, Havas ORG was 2.5%.

“The macroeconomic environment continues to bring challenges,” Jones said. Europe especially remains a tough business environment, he added. But for Havas, growth accelerated in North America, Latin American and the Asia-Pacific region during the quarter, Jones said.

Jones acknowledged that September was the weakest month during the third quarter, but stressed that the company didn’t experience a “dramatic falling off a cliff.” The fourth-quarter outlook is too early to tell, he said. Hurricane Sandy disrupted the company’s New York and New Jersey operations and the company is still assessing the toll. But he did not expect the storm to have a “major impact” on business.

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