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This is 'the most exciting time' in advertising, says Havas' Paul Marobella

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Paul Marobella
Paul Marobella Credit: Alfred Maskeroni

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In a challenging time for advertising with no shortage of gloom and doom out there, Paul Marobella remains a consummate optimist. The North American Chairman and CEO of Havas Creative says the current climate reminds him of the mid-1990s "when digital was going to change everything."

"A lot of people talk about this being one of the most difficult times to be in advertising for a variety of reasons," he says in the latest episode of the Ad Lib podcast. "I am a contrarian. I think it's probably the most exciting times."

Early on in his six years at the agency, Marobella helped reorganize the Chicago office. The model would become the inspiration for the Havas "village" concept globally — part of a broader industry trend toward knocking down silos to streamline work and internal communications. He also co-founded a global culture and entertainment network under Havas called the Annex, which strives to "create culture for millennials, by millennials," according to his chief creative officer, Jason Peterson.

But as a guy in his mid-40s, Marobella is not exactly a millennial.

Fortunately, though, he has parent company Vivendi to tap into. The French entertainment and media conglomerate acquired a majority stake in Havas about a year ago. "How do we work closer with our Vivendi counterparts — not just to say, 'hey we can get a song into an ad faster than somebody else can.' But more so, how do we take what we're good at — which is storytelling and narrative — with music, with film, with gaming and find ways to build offerings together?" he asks, pointing to Havas' work in sonic branding as a point of differentiation.

"It's hard to categorize us, because when you compare us to our competition WPP or Omnicom, they primarily consist of multiple agencies. We consist of entertainment and culture and communications, which to me is creativity in all its forms," he says. "I think that makes us an interesting player in advertising."

We discuss all that and more, including how he thinks about creating a culture of creativity, and what he's looking forward to at Cannes (and, speaking of Cannes, be sure to sign up for Ad Age's nightly recap newsletter here).

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