Interview with Russ Lidstone, CEO of Havas Worldwide London

This year is the year that I will finally dedicate more time to blogging in English, which I now find that is a much better outlet for my ideas and experiences related to digital communication. For some reason, creativity seems to be stimulated more by the English language in my corner of the internet. And to kick-off this new commitment, I have for you an interview which makes me very happy.

I was lucky to hear Mr. Russ Lidstone, CEO of Havas Worldwide London and Havas PR UK, speak at the IAB Forum in Bucharest, last year. I was impressed not only with his presentation and the campaigns that Havas has created, but also with the methodology and strategic thinking behind those campaigns. Because I strongly believe that we need more of that type of thinking in order to evolve in the digital communication field, I asked Mr. Lidstone for an interview. I wanted to share with my readers and with the communication professionals in Romania and abroad pieces of knowledge from an experienced professional whose results speak for themselves.

Thank you, Mr. Lidstone, for taking the time to answer my questions. I am sure that they will motivate at least a couple of junior communication practitioners to do more for their professional advancement. Enjoy the answers below!

russ lidstone, ceo havas uk - Copy

How do you build thought leadership in your company?

As an agency we have transformed the way we work and the competencies that we are able to offer (under one roof) in order to be able to provide the best strategic and creative solutions for our clients that work to deliver ROI across channels. We are one agency that has through the line advertising, digital at the core, social media, a brilliant PR agency (Havas PR UK), search, channel strategy and retail comms on one P&L. This is a very different model to that of our competitors and offers our clients synergy and efficiencies and it delivers very different output and results. Because we are built differently, we have to think and deliver differently, and that’s why we had our most award winning year in 2012 and had some good new business success. So I guess thought leadership is represented by the way we’re structured as well as in the type of blended content we do.

What do you find most exhilarating about digital communication?

The communications landscape has changed beyond recognition in the last few years and the things that we are able to do now in terms of building communities, tailoring content, talking to people at different stages of the ‘customer journey’, interacting and engaging, utilising data and so on… are remarkable. If that’s not exhilarating then I don’t know what is!
For someone involved in brand marketing communications there has never been a more exciting time to do what we do – the key challenge is ensuring we are able to keep aware of all the developments and that we remain prepared to evolve, learn and adapt.

What are the main characteristics you look for in the people you hire?

Brilliance, humility, teamwork, entrepreneurialism and an enquiring mind. But they have to be nice people as well.

What is the biggest challenge you face as the CEO of a digital agency?

Well as I said earlier – we’re not a purely digital agency. We uniquely blend the core disciplines of marketing communications in a truly integrated way, and this in itself is a great challenge because it means making sure that we’re really good in each discipline, but that we’re also combining those disciplines in the optimal way for our clients.
Making sure that my team have all the capabilities and knowledge to realise their brilliant open mindedness and potential. In many ways my job is to ensure that the talented people in the agency have the tools and knowledge that they need to be able to deliver for our clients. This is especially the case in the ever changing digital landscape.

If you could travel back in time, to when you were a student, what advice would you give yourself?

Well for a start – take your holidays, learn Mandarin, eat healthily and exercise regularly, be prepared for the unexpected and enjoy the journey. But I’d also use my favourite adage which is to remember that ‘an expert is someone who has stopped thinking’.

What are you most looking forward to in terms of technology and its impact on digital communication?

Obviously I think that the growth in mobile handsets and tablets that we’ve witnessed combined with NFC, social/e commerce and beyond will open the doors to many communications approaches and ideas that we could only dream of a few years ago. We recently created the world’s first iAd to utilise camera and social functionality for our award winning VO5 styling campaign ‘Pageant’ and this was just one small but effective example of the ways in which brands can engage audiences with compelling content.
But of course the exciting thing is not really knowing what’s next. We’re currently working with a tech accelerator in order to develop new technologies with our clients that help to solve business and communications problems. In many ways the ability to ask ‘what if..?’ is more powerful and justified today than ever before.

Did you enjoy this interview? Would you like to read more interviews like these? I am asking, because I love to interview people that inspire me and that I believe we could all learn from. I’d like to share more of these with you and I’d like to know what types of interviews you’d like to read.

Getting personal with communication

Romania rising!

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