PARIS: The smile on the face of Vincent Bolloré is that of a very satisfied tiger. Having ingested Havas, an unwilling victim, just eighteen months ago amid predictions of terminal indigestion, the French corporate raider now presides as chairman of the agency world victor in the net new business league.

According to a study by investment bank Bear, Stearns & Co, Havas ranks numero uno among the planet's six marketing services conglomerates in terms of net new business during 2006.

  1. Havas: $883 million
  2. WPP Group: $442 million
  3. Aegis Group: $192 million
  4. Omnicom Group: $106 million
  5. Publicis Groupe: ($64 million loss)
  6. Interpublic Group: ($214 million loss)
And not only does the former also-ran lead the pack, its new business gains are greater than those of the rest of its rivals put together.

Furthermore, the overall picture for the other five holding companies is less than rosy, with aggregated new business billings down by 5% in 2006. At the same time, account losses leapt by 12%.

And although wins still outrun losses, net new billings (gains minus losses) plunged 59% for the fading five.

All are 'adjusted' figures; Bear Stearns adjusts media business gains to one-fourth of reported billings because media accounts generate less revenue than creative accounts.

However, the overall year-on-year picture is distorted as Aegis Group is excluded from the comparative data - for reasons unstated it was not tracked by Bear Stearns in 2005.

Among Havas's wins - adjusted to around $1.8 billion - were Progressive Direct, Reckitt Benckiser and French telecom giant SFR. At the same time it bid a tearful farewell to Sony and Audi of America.

However, many believe that this welter of statistical juggling by Wall Street rune-readers, does little but keep them in gainful employment while adding credence to Disraeli's maxim: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."

As Havas itself noted in a disclosure in a 2006 financial report: "Net new business is not an accurate predictor of future revenue.

"What constitutes new business or lost business is subject to differing judgments; the amounts associated with individual business wins and losses depend on estimated client budgets; clients may not spend as much as they budget; the timing of budgeted expenditures is uncertain; and the amount of budgeted expenditures that translate into revenue depends on the nature of the expenditures and the applicable fee structures."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff