Havas wins Shell account – the creative industry weighs in

Climate campaigners and purpose-driven agencies have spoken out as the huge contract passes hands.

20 September 2023

Havas is Shell’s new media agency. The oil company confirmed with The Drum that it will begin working with Havas Media from January 2024. The news caused backlash across the ad industry and beyond, with many criticising Havas’ decision (particularly as its subsidiary Havas London is a B Corp), while some are asking where the line should be drawn between a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ client.

WPP worked as Shell’s agency for 18 years before the oil company invited pitches in a media review in June 2023. Climate-focused creative organisations, like Comms Declare, spoke out in the following months, calling for agencies to avoid pitching. 19 signatories, including Good – the UK’s highest scoring marketing and communications B Corp agency – wrote to B Lab UK asking for clearer guidelines on granting accreditation to agencies who partner with fossil fuel giants.

Now the win is confirmed, there is fresh focus on Havas. ED Duncan Meisel from Clean Creatives – which is an industry initiative encouraging ad agencies to pledge against fossil fuel business with an ‘F List’ and ‘List of Clean Creative Agencies’ – says: “There is no ambiguity about taking this contract: Havas Media Network is making itself a vital part of Shell’s plans to accelerate the climate emergency.

“Shell has put in writing that they have no plan to become a net zero business for decades. They've told investors that they will continue producing more fossil fuels, even during a global heatwave. Their own research said that their current business plan would create a global catastrophe – in the 1980s. Partnering with them is incompatible with Havas’ stated values, and their climate goals.”

On X (previously Twitter), Advantage Advertising creative director and photographer Toufic Beyhum called for agencies to look at their clients, and their clients’ clients, before “bashing” Havas. Toufic particularly points in particular to gambling companies and pharma clients.

At the time of writing, Havas London’ Overall B Impact Score on the B Corp site was listed as 88.5 – the median score for ordinary businesses who are assessed is currently 50.9.

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Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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