How I addressed David Jones, when I first wrote about him, when I was at Marketing Week. I came across him when he returned to the UK from Euro RSCG Australia in 2002 to run the Reckitt Benckiser business, when the agency first won the business. It was not until two years later that we ran an article on him, when he was promoted to the CEO of Euro RSCG New York. At the time, Jones was not quite on the radar of the UK press. (I remember we did not even have his picture, and my breaking news was that ‘a’ David Jones has been appointed to run Euro RSCG NY. It took me a few hours and several calls to finally uncover the man behind the very common sounding name). He is anything but.
The news of his departure today from Havas Worldwide, though sudden, should not come as a surprise to those who know him and his ambitions. Having charted the meteoric rise of Jones since 2004, and interviewed him on several occasions (not forgetting the generous lunches) I feel the urge (justified or not) to offer my own theories to what next.
- The advertising world is largely led by sexagenarians and septuagenarians, and Jones in his 40s understands the challenging and very exciting world of digital – he knows the game, theory and risk.
The launch of his new tech start-up is likely to be listed on some of the ‘hottest lists’, soon after its launch. His full-throated persistence in surrounding himself with some of the most influential and powerful men and women around the world means that his genius lies in leveraging some of the most brilliant ideas. One of the few people, to my mind (in advertising at least), who recognises that innovation does not only happen on an idea level but also on an operational level.
- Which leads me to question if there really was enough room at the top of Havas for two very similar personalities – Yannick Bolloré, the son of Havas’ single largest shareholder and till-now the golden boy at the French advertising group, David Jones? Jones is a consummate ad man who with his intellectual and business drive and curiosity has managed to create one of the most important things of value – his own brand. Bolloré Jr meanwhile seems to be urgently walking the same path.
- Jones is not just smart but also fearless. Personally effervescent (receding hairline or not, I have to say, easy on the eye) and exasperatingly enthusiastic most times. One of the most memorable stories that I wrote was the long running saga of the take-over of the once hot-shop (loosely-used term) CHI. The acquisition of the London agency by Havas was masterminded by Jones and to have been left bruised by Sir Martin Sorrell at the 11th hour was not probably the French network’s finest hour. However what it did for Jones, astonishingly, was put him and his vision and ‘purpose’ firmly on the map.
- I will be most interested to learn more about Jones’ new tech start-up. The wider point though is how his departure from Havas means how it might impact the advertising world. Already the rumour mills are rife with which networks are best placed to house him. Good money is on Jones eventually joining Sir Martin.
Sir Martin is yet to announce a successor, or indeed groom an heir – David Jones, fit the bill? I predict a duel – between Johnny Hornby and David Jones. I will pay to watch.