—Climate campaigners had called on agencies to drop out of the media review, saying PR and advertising firms are aiding oil companies in delaying climate action—
By Matthew Keegan and Nikita Mishra
Havas has won the competitive bid for Shell’s media account, the holding group has confirmed to Campaign. WPP’s GroupM, which held the account since 2005, was the incumbent.
Effective January 2024, Havas Media will take over the oil company’s global B2C strategic media buying.
“At Havas, we are invested in supporting companies through their growth and transformation journeys,” said Charlotte Rambaud, global chief communications officer for Havas. “We are pleased to have been appointed Shell’s global strategic media buying agency and look forward to working with the Shell team to ensure consumers are better informed about the range of energy solutions it is providing today and investing in for the future.”
The account win comes three months after it became public that the oil giant was shopping for an agency to handle its global media planning and buying account. It attracted criticism from climate campaigners like Comms Declare’s Belinda Noble and Clean Creatives’s Duncan Meisel, who tried to stifle the review, citing the “long-term destruction of value that such a client will cause.”
Meisel, the executive director of Clean Creatives, which helps agencies drop fossil fuel clients, has come out strongly against the holding group, expressing concerns over climate deception.
In a statement to Campaign, he said: “Prior to this contract, it looked like Havas was on track to reduce its involvement with fossil fuel polluters. Taking on Shell’s media contract is a huge step backward and does real damage to Havas’ work to distinguish itself as a sustainability and purpose leader in the ad industry.”
As news of the account win spread across the industry, Red Havas, the communications subsidiary of the holding group, saw one of its clients sever ties because of the collaboration.
Fossil Fuel Non-Profileration Treaty Initiative had embarked on a short-term contract with Red Havas to bolster communications efforts surrounding the UN General Assembly in New York City. It was “actively pitched by Red Havas for a substantial, global, multi-year contract.”
However, in a decisive response to the Shell win, it terminated its existing partnership with Red Havas and “vowed to sever all ties with any Havas entities in the future,” including a “9 am video shoot slated for tomorrow,” says Tzeporah Berman, the chair of the Fossil Fuel Treaty Initiative.
“They made a choice today: instead of helping the world move away from deadly oil, gas and coal, as called for by millions of people in every corner of the globe, they chose the wrong side of history by deciding to support the worst of the worst industry in the world. The fossil fuel industry is burning our climate, our communities and our lives. Havas decided to not only burn a client but also to help burn the planet.”
It must be noted that the New York and London offices of Havas are B-Corp-certified companies that set high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. Havas Immerse, part of Havas Group, became the first creative agency in Malaysia to achieve a B Corp certification from B Lab last August. As such, agencies must disclose on the B Lab assessment if they work for sensitive industries, such as fossil fuels. However, this is just a guideline and not mandatory.
Havas-owned Triptk, which has its APAC office in Singapore, was the first agency owned by a major holding company to sign the Clean Creatives pledge in 2022. The shop has strict client vetting criteria, saying no to fossil fuel clients unless they can back it up with a clear balance sheet commitment to renewables transition.
Shell, on the other hand, pledged in 2020 to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but the oil company has repeatedly backtracked throughout 2023.
During an investor presentation in June, Shell said it is “stepping back from opportunities that do not fit our strategy” or did not produce sufficient returns. Shell was referring to its portfolio of renewable energy.
CEO Wael Sawan has said that cutting fossil fuel production would be “dangerous,” alarming environmental groups during a year that has served up climate-fuelled catastrophes, including deadly heatwaves around the world, unprecedented wildfires in Maui, and flooding in Hong Kong, Libya, and Greece.
A version of this article first appeared on Campaign Asia