Havas Media CEO Virginia Hyland on her collaborative approach to leadership

Mediaweek - Havas Media

• Hyland also spoke about navigating the pandemic and the growth ahead

Virginia Hyland was appointed as CEO of Havas Media Group Australia in 2020 after her agency, Hyland, was acquired by the Group that year.

The CEO has established herself as a respected leader in the industry throughout her esteemed career and is also on the board of directors of the Media Federation of Australia.

Hyland spoke to Mediaweek about being a leader, representation within the industry, navigating the pandemic and the outlook for Havas Media Group.

Hyland on being a collaborative leader to a forward-thinking team

As CEO, Hyland develops and leads Havas Media, Havas Market (e-commerce) and Havas Sports & Entertainment teams.

Hyland works closely with their diverse clients, developing new products and capabilities to remain at the forefront of influential consumer connections. She also noted that she engages with the Havas Village creative and social agency friends to bring broader ideas to life.

The CEO shared that as a leader, she focuses on collaborating with her team to ignite ideas based on feedback from their clients.

“My leadership style is to encourage and support tomorrow’s ideas grounded in listening to colleagues, clients, and the market,” she said.

Hyland had nothing but praise for her team and said: “true entrepreneurialism is alive and well within the Havas walls.”

“The team are from diverse backgrounds and specialisations. Through rich collaboration, the team are enabled to reimagine our business, to design and deliver a better outcome from where we were 12 months prior,” she said.

Hyland noted that her team had attracted creative thinkers who are continually on a forward momentum to build capabilities and innovations for the future.

The CEO also said that their team had attracted senior industry leaders who want to use their voices to share and shape the agency’s future.

“They are enabled to fail fast and try again to strike the perfect balance around client need versus future opportunity,” she added.

Improving representation across the industry

When it comes to gender representation in the media industry, Hyland noted that the industry has strong and growing representation at the leadership level.

“We are a young industry, only launching in the ’90s, and we were not defined by legacy and tradition,” she said.

The CEO, born and raised in the country, noted that the industry needs to improve cultural and geographical diversity.

“We encourage our clients and our teams to accept candidates that are different to them, that may have a unique perspective.

Hyland shared: “When I was young, I had to move from regional Australia to the city to enjoy a role in media. Country kids still need to move to the city today, so we need to change this and open up media careers to more people from different cultures and geo-locations,” she added.

How Havas Media navigating through the pandemic

According to Hyland, the pandemic was a period with highs and lows for the Group. “Overall, Havas Media fared well, and we held onto our team.”

“Many of our travel and entertainment clients were challenged, whereas our e-commerce and online retail clients delivered serious revenue growth,” she said.

The CEO noted that she and the leadership team appreciated their banding together to navigate through the toughest of times.

Hyland added: “We knew that when the pandemic had passed, we would need our talented crew. This, in turn, created loyalty and trust.”

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Challenges in the industry face and why collaboration is the key

In a fast-paced world, the industry faces a wide range of challenges. Hyland noted that marketers need to focus on balancing investment between brand building and instantaneous growth.

“Performance analysis across the spectrum of channels – paid, owned, earned, and shared has become a necessity to ensure we are delivering the best solutions for brands. Leading to a higher level of sophistication in understanding and measuring the movement of consumers across the purchase decision journey,” she said.

Hyland noted that Havas Media’s focus has shifted to how audiences are engaged and communicated to within individual channels instead of purely optimising media expenditure.

The CEO said that various agency disciplines will need to park their egos and collaborate if they want to stay relevant and solve business problems.

“Havas has created a clever model where not only are we part of an agency group physically located together,” she said.

Hyland explained that they, as one company, meet every Monday morning to share their great work.

“Our myriad of specialists are easy to connect with on any day to create solutions. The Havas Village always lean in to help any client. This can only happen when CEOs commit to supporting each other, and it leads to very special moments for our team and our clients,” she added.

Advice to those looking to join the media industry

Career opportunities are rife in the media industry as it experiences a talent shortage. Recent research World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) found that 48% of all advertisers, agencies, ad tech companies and media owners believe the industry is facing the “worst-ever crisis” regarding talent.

Hyland championed the media industry as one of the most powerful sectors that can set up a new entrant for a career with a broad range of opportunities.

“Companies of all types need greater advice and support from media professionals,” she said.

“Advice around unlocking audience insights to fuel future growth, engaging audiences in the digital and social world, building brand awareness, capturing quality data and converting to a sale. Media teaches people all these aspects. Leading to long-term career opportunities,” the CEO added.

Hyland highlighted the importance of developing various skills across media, data, and tech specialisations for those interested in joining the industry, particularly those studying at university.

“It will create a powerful foundation no matter where your career takes you next. Media specialists are leading more roles within businesses than ever before,” she added.

The growth phase ahead for Havas Media

Looking ahead, Hyland shared that Havas Media is set to go through an exciting growth phase.

“We have identified core competencies which we will expand through investment and possible acquisition, particularly around our data, tech, and digital capabilities.

“We will continue to work closely with our Havas Village colleagues to develop smarter thinking around engaging and entertaining audiences. We know that entertainment beats interruption,” she added.

Hyland described Havas as a brave business always willing to invest in the right talent and business opportunity.

“Our expansion will always ladder back to what is of most value to deliver new thinking and growth for our clients,” the CEO added.

Top image: Virginia Hyland

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