Havas Group has announced the acquisition of a majority stake in Paris creative agency Buzzman, with plans for a five-year buyout.
Depending on the agency’s performance during this period, this could represent a full acquisition of Buzzman over the next five years. Going forward, Buzzman will retain its own agency and autonomy while being integrated into Havas Group and gaining access to its international network.
The acquisition gives Havas somewhat of a monopoly on creative firepower in the region, adding to a roster of Paris agencies that already includes Havas Paris, BETC and Rosapark, Adweek’s 2018 International Agency of the Year.
Founded in 2006 by president and creative director Georges Mohammed-Chérif, Buzzman has grown into an agency that grosses more than $50 million in income annually and employs 140 people. Along the way, the agency has picked up over 25 Cannes Lions, four Gold Effies and a roster of major clients. Buzzman has worked with Burger King for five years and with IKEA since 2016. In 2009, the agency brought on former DDB associate director Thomas Granger as vice president, who helped develop Buzzman into an integrated agency. The 2013 win of the French dating site Meetic helped usher in a wave of notable client wins, including L’Oreal, Mondelez, PayPal, BMW, easyJet and the aforementioned Burger King and IKEA.
Havas Group CEO Yannick Bolloré explained that the holding company has considered acquiring Buzzman for the last five years, when it first began discussing the possibility with Mohammed-Chérif after bring impressed with the agency’s work, such as its playful social media campaign for corrective fluid brand Tipp-Ex.
Retaining autonomy was always a prime concern for the agency founder. When Havas Group and Buzzman entered into the most recent round of negotiations months ago, Bolloré said the agency had grown to a size where this was now a viable option and the two parties finalized the decision a couple of weeks ago.
“Georges was keen to join Havas and comfortable with the strategy of our group, which puts creativity at the core of our strategy,” Bolloré told Adweek, adding that it was a “huge opportunity” for the network, which is “super proud to have Buzzman join the extended Havas family.”
Mohammed-Chérif explained that Buzzman has been fielding acquisition offers from agency groups in France and the U.S. as well as consultancies, but Havas represented the right partner at the right time.
“We are maybe at the top of this independent way of life and want to go to the next level,” he said. “We’re flattered to join a group that has BETC and Rosapark and will show to the market that, with these agencies, we’re the [leading creative network] in France.”
He added: “At the moment we are at a good size to have the power to have total autonomy, which Yanick offers to us. There are a lot of acquisitions by groups of independent agencies where they try to put their culture into the group. The intelligence of Yannick is to let us direct and have the power to [continue managing] the agency the same way we’ve managed it since the beginning.”
Mohammed-Chérif shared that not being part of an international network has proven a challenge in previous international pitches for Buzzman. Now the agency gains access to Havas resources, including media buying and planning, PR and a boost to strategic planning.
With an international pitch coming up in two weeks, the timing could prove quite beneficial for Buzzman.
“The fact that we can put the network behind us will help us with that pitch,” Mohammed-Chérif said.