Mediaweek Agency 50: Havas CEO Virginia Hyland on proudly championing diversity in the industry

Mediaweek - Havas Media

“Let’s continue to make change – big and small – to propel our industry forward to a better future”

Mediaweek held its inaugural Power Lunch in October, celebrating the successes of the media industry and the people who make it.

Virginia Hyland, CEO of Havas Media Group, came in at #17 on the Agency 50.

Hyland spoke to Mediaweek about how the recognition reflects the team, the importance of diversity in the industry and making changes to propel the industry into a better future.

Mediaweek: Congratulations on making the #17 spot on our Mediaweek Agency 50 list. What was your reaction to your placement?
VH: Thank you Mediaweek, I am incredibly proud Havas Media is recognised among so many other strong and successful agencies.
It speaks to the outrageously talented generation of leaders we have in our agency who not only deliver impressive campaigns and business outcomes for clients but also lean into industry initiatives from pay parity, DE&I to automation initiatives.
MW: How does your position on the list reflect the achievements made by the Havas Group?
VH: Havas Media is the youngest of all global media agencies in Australia, we are eight years young. We consider ourselves as the Grown Up Start Up. Every agency within the Havas Village and many of the leaders are born from independent agencies acquired by Havas.
This speaks to our nimbleness, entrepreneurial spirit, and willingness to reframe how we work with clients to deliver effective outcomes. Our ability is unique where we can bring together under the same roof any of the 400 specialists to integrate and wrap our arms around our clients’ businesses with the support they need, when they need it. Havas is reinventing how to deliver joined up thinking that helps to solve business problems.
We’re proud to have led the media industry in developing the MFA positioning – ‘We are the Changers’. To witness the positive impact that the manifesto and message has had on the industry continues to be a very proud moment for the team.
Our team value of ‘Be your own Crazy’ has meant that we embrace all types of people. To have our very own teammate, Karl Faustino, feel safe to share his story in the trade press of being a gay Filipino man working in Australia’s Adland was a poignant moment.
Celebrating and being confident to share that the brightest and best come from all backgrounds. We are among only a few agencies to place diversity so confidently in the spotlight. Our team feel confident in sharing their whole self with the agency and the industry to encourage others to be comfortable in their own skin.

MW: What are three industry issues on your mind, and in your opinion, how can they be solved or achieved

VH: Diversity – let’s stop talking and start doing. Our industry may not attract people from other cultures, so we need to understand the culture of those we are trying to attract to our industry instead of expecting people to enter our agency the same way we did. There is great potential talent who live in regional areas and who are from different multicultural backgrounds, so we need to reimagine how we work to embrace people.
Understand the parts of our industry that make them feel uncomfortable and put effort into developing an inclusive way of working. When I grew up it was impossible to enter the industry unless I moved from my country town to the city. Perhaps we need to reimagine how we connect and develop people from everywhere.

Saying no to unreasonable onerous pitches where agencies are required to work for a client at a potential loss – until we break the system we will continue to bend to the demands of an onerous pitch process which isn’t the reality of the client experience day to day. We are saying no to more pitches of all types and sizes as we understand the criteria to choose an agency.
Cheap rates across linear television and digital are still the clear focus for so many pitch consultants instead of focusing on how we deliver growth and develop clear insight around how to engage audiences. Our industry capabilities have accelerated in the past three years and there is a lack of understanding and experience around the criteria to set in order to effectively judge which agency would become an excellent partner.
A number of pitch companies are making the ultimate decision on how cheaply we can buy media, still heavily focusing on linear TV pricing. These pitching principles are now outdated. Marketers need to deliver growth, and this comes from deeply understanding and unpacking how to engage audiences – both through media amplification and importantly content. Cheapest rates and cheap teams cannot deliver the outcome required for high performing brands.
Automation –
there are many young bright-eyed people emerging from university to enter the world of media. Very quickly they are becoming disillusioned within the media industry because the work we expect them to do is laborious, archaic and has not changed in 30 years. Given that we now live in the world of AI we need to play catch up and as an industry focus on automating mundane tasks to retain our bright talent.

MW: What is your outlook for Havas Group in 2023?
VH: 2022 was a sparkling year for Havas because we collectively worked together across the Village agencies to realise the focus of better together.
The Village mentality of coming together as a team of specialists to unpack a marketer’s challenge or problem saw the Havas Village beat one hundred agency submissions to be appointed to the Tourism Fiji and Fiji Airways accounts, integrating, and measuring the results from various content activations, online user experience across multiple channels.
Clients desire a truly integrated solution around how to best engage audiences. The best opportunity to do so is through working as one Havas Village and combining our first-class knowledge and skills across specialisms.
The Havas Village delivers this better, bigger, and faster than any other agency in Australia, proving to deliver sales growth for many marketers. Havas is a challenger agency with a strong determination to succeed where many cannot. Because of this we are very much set up for success in 2023 with no antiquated legacy structures holding us back.
Mediaweek: What are your hopes for the industry in 2023?
VH: ‘We are the Changers’ is our new industry mantra and I would like to see many of our talented team embrace this focus and lean in to continue to challenge old ways to create a dynamic future. My hope is that our industry continues to value the powerful growth we deliver brands and to continue to say no to clients who are not willing to pay fairly.
Every year we have helped brands grow through our ecommerce, digital performance, and content practices. Without the relentless effort and energy from our teams, marketers would not experience success. Treat us as partners, not suppliers. Gratitude is so simple to give, and it means that teams will naturally work harder for brands that appreciate our efforts.
Let’s continue to make change – big and small – to propel our industry forward to a better future.

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