Asda x Elf

The Showcase 2022


It Takes a Village to build a brand: Havas London's 2022

New UK leadership, significant new biz wins, and that Elf Christmas campaign for Asda - the agency is on a roll

By Creative Salon

No one could have predicted that this year's Christmas show-stealer would be an ad from Asda. Full marks to Havas London for its turnaround on this brand, creating the most impactful campaign of the season. It proved to be both a creative and strategic triumph.

In addition, new UK group leadership - with Xavier Rees taking full charge of all Havas' UK creative agencies, including Cake and Inviqa; two significant Government new business wins; scooping the Channel 4’s Diversity in Advertising Award; and a host of successful creative and commercial campaigns have made this a standout year for the agency.

Here, then, is Creative Salon's verdict on the agency's last 12 months.

Creative Salon on Havas London's 2022

Change is the law of life. Said JFK. This summer the surprise departure of Chris Hirst, the global chief of Havas' creative division, led to a reshuffle of its UK leadership. Xav Rees was put in charge of all Havas' UK creative agencies. It was a fitting promotion for Rees, who - alongside CCO Vicki Maguire - has been busy boosting the creative network’s reputation in the UK.

The UK team was bolstered at the start of the year when Rees brought in James Fox (from his role as managing director and partner at Lucky Generals' New York offices) as Havas' first chief client officer since 2019. Fox completes the executive team alongside head of strategy Britt Iversen who was hired from Mother a year ago, Mark Whelen - the founder of Cake who was promoted to chairman across all UK divisions this summer, and the indomitable global CMO Tracey Barber.

The team has been working hard to build and protect a culture of kindness - a leadership style that Xav is well known for. The agency offers direct financial support for those on the lowest salaries including interest-free loans. Xav has also updated the parental leave policy to extend to six months’ paid leave for both mothers and fathers. There are also fertility support loans, time off for fertility treatment, parental coaching support, an option to buy more holiday days and additional leave after pregnancy loss.

The agency had a busy year realising its creative ambitions and pursuing its restless bid for growth. This August Havas scooped the NHS Blood and Transplant creative, CX and PR accounts. The three-year contract, worth £4.9m, marked Havas' second government win. It had retained the Department for Education's teacher recruitment business in June following a competitive pitch. Later in the year, the agency won Channel 4’s Diversity in Advertising Award for a creative idea for Reckitt’s stain removal brand Vanish that tackles visible or non-visible disabilities.The winning idea, which will be created into a TV ad campaign next year, aims to help girls be seen as part of a broader public understanding of autism.

Other noteworthy work also includes Asda turning bar codes into bra codes in Breast Cancer Awareness drive, offering a 'real self checkout'; and the playful ‘We’re made by our mates’, for Molson Coors, celebrating the power of friendship.

And of course that “Have your Elf a merry Christmas” campaign for Asda. It just owned Christmas this year. The ad was the retailer’s most effective festive offering to date and scored in the top 3 per cent of all UK ads for “making people smile”, according to Kantar. It was also named System1’s most effective Christmas ad of the year.

Creative Salon says: Havas is an agency that had us all talking this year: about its people, its policies, its pitch wins and its work. As leaders, both Xav and Vicki are known for their collaborative approach to working and together with the wider team this year they proved that Havas London has the creative chops and the determination to make a difference. The UK ad world will be watching what comes next.

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