Tag Archives: Manchester Digital

A brave new world

Merger; From the Inside, by David Hunt

Part III, Business as usual

You’ve not told your team, your clients are blissfully unaware, the world needs to know & so might your family. Business as usual is the priority, but first comes the news.

Announcement

First comes the news

Before discussing our communication strategy, I think it’s worth noting the confidentiality & respect with which all discussions took place. I was naturally concerned that our discussions would be leaked destabilising clients & our team. With the odd exception all parties conducted themselves impeccably and for that I’m eternally grateful.

Our number one priority was our staff, we told them first. Despite agreeing to join Havas for all the right reasons; exciting briefs, strategic insight & global support, we were naturally apprehensive. Would they be anxious, confused, cynical? Inevitably there were pockets of concern, but the overwhelming response was excitement. The agency saw it as an opportunity, a new challenge, they saw it as a promotion to the big league. A Manchester agency united with a global ambition. 18 months later we would be crowned Havas Agency of the Year.

Clients, an equal mixture of cynicism, ambivalence, excitement & recognition. To those that were cynical we outlined the benefits the merger would bring with the addition of strategic tools, shared expertise & global footprint. With hard work & determination we have allayed those fears. Some were ambivalent, they knew our values & trusted our judgement. Most were excited, they employed us for our strengths, they forgave our weaknesses, and knew that a global partner would address many of them. Our long-term partners, those that have known us since the beginning, were pleased. They understood all the benefits & helped celebrate our next step.

Having emerged from the process of a merger, nothing could be more refreshing than the day job. The process is  both intellectually & emotionally draining. Ironically, across both clients & staff were small pockets which expressed their concern that with our announcement would come distractions. They worried we would lose focus on their business and be consumed by a network. This could not be further from the truth, the distraction was over. The extra work done. In many ways the public announcement, signified back to business as usual.

Part I, Initial engagement

Part II, Finer details

Part IV, A year in & the lessons I learnt

It sounds great, but how do you really know?

Merger; From the Inside, by David Hunt

Part II, Finer Details

You’ve found a partner, someone with shared values and ambitions, but what next? A huge number of deals never materialise, I’d speculate through anxiety, uncertainty, egos and inevitable complications. And that’s appropriate. Global groups want the best, and that can only be achieved with blood, sweat & tears. To be the best, you have to care.

Your agency is comfortable, reassuring, familiar. It’s successful, enjoyable, it is safe. “We can wait another twelve months!”, “We’re doing great on our own!!”, “It’s not the right time!!!” Anxiety and second thoughts are inevitable when  approaching a merger or acquisition. But as previously discussed on this blog, I believe to survive & succeed evolution is essential. We overcame our apprehension through complete internal alignment, one of our greatest strengths, and honest communication with Havas Health, one of theirs.

You fear seismic change when going through a merger. You’ve heard the scare stories, you know the risks. A creative imagination can fuel wild uncertainties. Fear of the unknown can be entirely debilitating. But your a great agency; decorated, profitable & happy. You know your people, you know your business, you know what works. You also also know your weaknesses. By identifying a true partner, their ambition will be improvement where & when it counts, not driving change for changes sake. It’s about evolving together, becoming stronger & better.

You have an ambition, and to realise it you’ve recognised the need for a partner. You respect the need for help. I think it is essential to maintain that respect throughout the process. If you are perfect, do not undertake a merger. If you recognise deficiencies at the outset remember them through the process, I’m sure being humble helps both parties.

I’ve worked for one agency. I intend to work for one network. I love my job & I have no desire to jump ship. As a Senior team I can only assume we are fairly unique in being entirely genuine regarding our long-term commitment. However, it is entirely right & appropriate to construct robust legal agreements, I understand a hand-shake is not enough. To complete a deal requires agreeing the finer details and addressing these complications – I’m sure it was easier having addressed everyone’s anxiety & uncertainty, and with egos left at the door. 

Part I, Initial engagement

Part III, Business as usual

Part IV, A year in & the lessons I learnt

HAVAS LYNX Named Havas Agency of the Year

Network life, by David Hunt

We joined the Havas network on the 31st May 2012. On the 22nd of January 2014 we were named Havas Agency of the year. This accolade is our single greatest award. Representing healthcare in a consumer world, competing with the likes of the brilliant BETC, Cake and One Green Bean, we have proven that pharmaceutical marketing can be just as exciting, just as creative and just as innovative as the B2C world. In fact, we have demonstrated that it can be better.

We joined Havas due to their passion, energy and creativity. They are the group behindEvian’s Roller Babies campaign (77 million views on YouTube) and the Baby & Me campaign (71 million views on YouTube). More recently, the team in Australia launched the Doug Pitt campaign and from Paris BETC launched ‘The Bear’ for Canal+.

Healthcare can often be seen as the ugly duckling of advertisement; stifling creativity in favour of science. I would argue that it simply raises the bar of the creative expertise required to succeed within the sector. I am not diminishing the talent required to make Aldi exciting, but it requires a different expertise, determination and creative confidence to succeed in healthcare communications.

There is a belief in media and communications that global networks buy all of the best talent and break them. There are a number of cases and stories within the industry of once amazing agencies losing their sparkle, independence and passion. This fear was echoed by a number of our clients when we announced our deal with Havas. Had our deal been purely based on financials we would have chosen a different partner. Had we not wanted to evolve the agency, and been happy to rest on our laurels, we would not have found a partner at all. As a senior team, we recognised the need to develop our offering, enhancing our global presence and bolstering our strategic offering, to complement our natural creativity and innovation. This award is a testament to Havas: making us stronger, not weaker; our service more agile, less bloated; our campaigns smarter, less fanciful.

Plane

It would be wrong to say that 2013 was easy. It was not. It was incredibly hard. In the first 6 months we had a number of tough projects, internal challenges and inevitable growing pains. The fact we turned things around and closed 2013 so strongly demonstrates the strength of character that runs from the bottom to the top of our agency, from strategy to delivery, from reception to board. It also fills us all with real confidence for 2014, as we look to build upon robust client partnerships, a responsive structure and exceptional people.

What next? HAVAS LYNX will continue to demonstrate that creativity and innovation in healthcare communications is defined by passion and ideas, not legislation and fear.

10, 20, 50, 100 or 1,000; what’s the perfect size for an agency?

Client / Agency relationships, by David Hunt

178, the size of HAVAS LYNX. Ask anyone that manages an agency of 178 & they will say the same – it’s perfect. I imagine that in a few weeks 181 will be even more perfect. 

For years we were perceived as being too small. Now we are too big to be innovative, yet still too small to be a player?!? I disagree with both opinions.

Innovation & creativity is not about headcount. Never has been, never will be. It’s about people, passion & culture. With a background in digital, technology & creativity, I was appointed CEO at the age of 33. I’m driven by ideas & not numbers. Supported by a management team that believes in great work, we  now invest in more diverse expertise, try more unique technologies & chase more ideas than ever before. We are constantly looking for new concepts for ourselves, for our clients, for HCPs & for patients.

Can you be small, commercially motivated & technology agnostic? With the correct approach and the right people, perhaps. However, are you more likely to settle with the specialist you shared lunch with, or the unknown you still need to locate? With a big agency comes diverse expertise under one roof, providing seamless access to broad ideas. But can you be big & still bright? Certainly, but only by breaking down silos & embracing diversity. Different experiences, points of view & interests inspire innovation.

Like the story of Goldilocks, some agencies are too big, some agencies are too small, and some agencies are just right – it depends on your taste.

Three Bears

It is a matter of taste

Another strange question – do you have enough capacity? Does a prospective customer really want an agency that’s quiet? I’ve never walked into an empty restaurant, however if it’s heaving I want a reservation – evidence suggests that the product will be great. Do you want a partner that is free, or do you want a partner that is expert? A well run agency will have the infrastructure, process & connections to scale smartly and meet the fluid needs of their customers.

I’m proud to say that we are very big and we are very busy. And our clients choose HAVAS LYNX for our  ideas, innovation & ability to exceed expectations, and we are grateful for their patronage. 

High5ives to the team at HAVAS LYNX

Good business, by David Hunt

25,302 pounds in just one year, 500 pounds per week for 52 weeks, or 150 pounds per person – however you decide to analyse the efforts and achievements of the HAVAS LYNX #High5ives team this year, it is a tremendous effort. But CSR doesn’t just include charitable donations & raising money, they went much, much further.

£25,302 raised in 2013.

£25,302 raised in 2013.

It was just over twelve months ago when Tim Woodcock, General Manager LYNX London, developed a penchant for 30 mile runs. Further investigation uncovered his proposed participation in Marathon des Sables: The Toughest Footrace on Earth. It was a phenomenal effort; equally phenomenal was the support that Tim would receive from the agency. The endeavour also saw Nick Greenwood create the #High5ives brand, which became a catalyst for our CSR movement. In the age of damage, it perfectly illustrates the impact of a genuine brand, with values, behaviour, and personality entirely aligned.

High5ives Brand

#High5ives

50 pints of blood were donated by members of HAVAS LYNX. Each donation had the ability to save 3 lives. The initiative was led by Julie Southam, who delivered an exceptional service to her clients, whilst simultaneously organising critical help for 141 strangers. As an agency, we believe that who cares wins and in helpful change. Our campaigns are centred on patient wellbeing, so too are many of our personal activities.

Leanne Ledger leads our activities in higher education; she also helped to educate the wider community on the 1.4 billion people that live in extreme poverty. Living on just £1 per day for a week, Leanne raised money & awareness through https://www.livebelowtheline.com. Our social reach is 142,750 in 2013.

James Young ran a marathon dressed as “Where’s Wally”, featured in the MEN, made sandwiches for the office every Thursday, and raised £1,000 for AMREF. The team ran another 300km as part of the BUPA Great Manchester Run, with all proceeds going to Motor Neurone Disease Association. In October Lukeki participated at The One Young World Summit 2013, having won one our internal competition. Following the inspirational event, Lukeki will be launching her initiative to tackle self-esteem issues and the wider problems low self-esteem can bring.

Continuing the #High5ives theme into 2014, HAVAS LYNX Medical will be launching one of the industry’s first events focussed entirely on ETHICS, and asking, “Ethics and the Pharmaceutical Industry: Is compliance enough?” The one-day interactive symposium will explore some of the ethical issues that confront the industry, with all proceeds going to NeuroMuscular Centre. Chaired by Mr Michael Buerk, with confirmed speakers including Dr Des Spence Glasgow GP & BMJ columnist, Mr Gyles Brandreth Raconteur & former Conservative MP and Dr Karl Wilding Director of Public Policy, National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

In keeping with the #High5ives theme and as we concluded 2013, the team decided on local charities over Christmas cards. Throughout December and into January, they are collecting donations for Barnabus, Wood Street Mission and Whitechapel Mission. Great charities that are in even greater demand over the holiday season. It’s a fitting end to a great first year for High5ives. Led by Claire Knapp & Tom Wordley, and supported by Claire Elliot, I have little doubt that this is just the beginning.

As CEO, their energy & achievements fill me with immense pride, equally their passion & expertise fill me with great confidence for the future.

2013, More Ups and Downs than the Big Dipper

A review of 2013, by David Hunt

We knocked down & rebuilt our home, I became CEO of HAVAS LYNX and most amazingly became a Father.

The Big Dipper

The Big Dipper

Having started at Creative Lynx as the studio junior, it was with immense pride that I became Chief Executive this summer. In many ways very little changed, I was still part of the same brilliant team with David Whittingham, Steve Nicholas and Neil Martin, but in many ways far more changed than I’d expected. Within two months we’d lost one of our most significant accounts and with the inevitable self-reflection that follows, recognised that we needed to evolve our business. HAVAS LYNX, formerly Creative Lynx, has been established for over 25 years and it is testament to the organisation’s DNA that it has consistently evolved to meet the changing landscape.

We believe that the global fiscal climate demands smart business models that provide high value services. We believe our clients are faced with an unprecedented spectrum of healthcare stakeholders and therefore require greater support than ever before. We believe to harness the brilliance of over 150 strategic, creative and digital experts, you need collaboration, integration and an agile philosophy.

On the 9th of August, as part of our Agency Day, we launched LYNX PRIDE – a complete re-structure of our business designed around the needs of the market, our clients and our teams. It was a courageous move, epitomising our heritage & philosophy. As we close 2013 the results speak for themselves; feedback from our team & clients is unsolicited & overwhelming, we collected two further awards at the prestigious PMEA Awards and we have just secured a fantastic new account working with a bold & exciting team that share our passion for ground-breaking campaigns. They say, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, and I’m excited to announce that we are just getting started!!

Don’t knock down your home when your wife is 6 months pregnant – I learnt that in 2013. I also learnt that needing a great creative & great developer is not just the formula for success in marketing communications. Working with Phill Armstrong of White box Architecture we have emerged with a beautifully designed home and at the heart of that success, and at the heart of most client-supplier successes is a friendship & mutual respect. Even the best ideas still require flawless execution and with an obsessive attention to detail, I have quickly come to realise that I am that “client”. Fortunately, I found a builder with an equally sharp eye, a genuine commitment to quality and an essential sense of humour – E.P. Muldoon. Demonstrating expertise, initiative and most importantly patience, his team has built our home around us considering every detail, and adding value every step.

The 30th of April 2013, the highlight of this year and the last 33 – I became a Dad. Like many men before and after me, it was equally terrifying & amazing. Every day my world changes a little bit. Every day I learn a little bit more. Every day I realise that everything that every parent said is entirely true, and it really is the best thing in the world. And everything else… secondary. 

Understanding who you are, And knowing where you are going

Merger; From the Inside, by David Hunt
Part I, Initial engagement 

June 2012 was huge, after 18 months of careful planning I married my beautiful wife, running to the same timeline Creative Lynx merged with Havas. Both life changing events, both spectacularly exciting, but whilst friends & family can offer advice & council on your marriage, a merger is an altogether more isolated experience.

Having completed an MBO in March 2008, just six months after the credit crunch had started, business was going exceptionally well. We’d experienced year-on-year double-digit growth, collected 16 wins at the PM Society Digital Awards in 3 years and continued to develop a number of industry firsts. At the heart of our success was an exceptionally talented multi-disciplinary team that combined insight, with creativity and innovation. A team that would be at the forefront of our thoughts, every step of the way.

Through sustained growth & success, we saw three opportunities;

  • We were a young agency with brilliant ideas and passion, but we were a young agency that could benefit from a global partner. We needed global experience and sophistication to transform raw talent into global communication experts
  • Inside and outside of healthcare, consolidation is an increasing trend. As a boutique agency it can be seen as a threat or opportunity. We saw this as an opportunity to combine our intimate service with a global footprint
  • We’re based in Manchester, which is brilliant for creative & digital talent. However, in global communications it can be viewed as a province and whilst this perception is changing, before Havas we were being overlooked for the best global briefs

We’ve always grown our business through referrals, recommendations and repeat business. Through experience & intuition we know how to run an agency, we know how to build teams & deliver results, we know our business. But a merger is not about today, it is about tomorrow. Suitors have a passing curiosity in where you have come from, they have a fascination in where you are going. Having previously been focused on the here & now, at the outset of the process we became smarter, more considered, strategic – by simple proximity to potential global partners we were setting out our long-term ambition, designing a roadmap and creating an infrastructure to deliver sustained success.

Following our deal with Havas we have;

Our vision & ideas, originally inspired through the merger process are now becoming reality as a result of the support, infrastructure & expertise that we can now harness.

Having committed to the process & having defined our vision, we engaged with a number of networks. As a result of our success, we had already been approached by nearly all of the global communication networks –  now on our terms, in our time, the courtship could begin. I first met Donna Murphy & Doug Burcin (Global CEOs of Havas Health) in 2011, they were brilliant, the perfect combination of drive & consideration. Someone that I wanted to both work with and learn from. Alongside them was Ed Stapor, with an absolute passion for us and for Havas. Ed was driven by people & relationships, as were we.

As the journey unfolded we met a number of brilliant & respected leaders from across the major networks. Every interaction was another opportunity to learn, engage and shape our plans – they were all worthwhile. Whilst similar in their achievements & proposition, it quickly became apparent that there were significant differences in their approach. I believe that Havas made their decision based on the people & our ideas, the others focused more on numbers & forecast.

Beyond the chemistry that would ultimately shape our decision, Havas also talked more about digital, more about social, more about the future. They didn’t just want to buy the answer, they wanted to help create it. It wasn’t just about our insight, our ideas, our technology, it was about shared expertise, shared resource, a shared vision. It was about creating something unique. It was about creating a global group that would shape & define digital communications in healthcare – HAVAS LYNX.

It has been a fantastic start. We have enjoyed the honeymoon period, it is new, exciting and fun. There will always be highs & lows, it’s a relationship and we are all passionate. However by following our instinct & choosing people over profit, I know that we’ll have an ally when times are tough and an advocate when moving forward.

Part II, Agreeing the finer details

Part III, Business as usual

Part IV, A year in & the lessons I learnt