Agency Business Agency Models Havas

Havas management consultancy Gate One is launching in the US


By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

July 13, 2022 | 6 min read

Management consultancy Gate One is set to expand across the Atlantic as owner Havas Group attempts to sharpen its competitive edge in the US, Mexico and Canada.

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Havas management consultancy Gate One is expanding into the North American market / The Drum

The company specializes in business transformation projects for both consumer and B2B clients. Its founding client in the US will be GSK, the pharmaceutical giant.

Stephanie Nerlich, chief executive officer of Havas North America, says the expansion would add firepower to the network’s offer. “The attention of the CMO has expanded to include higher funnel business transformation questions and ambitions like: how can we build better experiences for our customers? What are retention strategies to future-proof our business? And, do we have the right organizational design, tools and structure to compete?

“They are no longer just looking for marketing execution, but business partnership and Gate One helps round out our service model in Havas North America. Ultimately, our clients and prospects are looking for us to help solve bigger transformational issues.“

She adds: “Gate One adds significant new capabilities to the Havas North American portfolio and rightly complements our marketing strengths, offering clients new possibilities to make transformative change. We are really excited to have a really interesting consultancy embedded in a creative network.”

Gate One was acquired by Havas in 2019. In 2021, it was one of the network’s fastest-growing UK divisions and has doubled in size since the takeover. Tim Phillips, the managing partner of Gate One, tells The Drum that demand for its core service – competitive strategy reviews and implementation provided by an expert team embedded in an organization – had risen during the pandemic as major brands reconsidered their business models.

He explains: “It’s about turning a theory into reality. So, how do you reorganize? How do you take cost out of the business? How do you build new capabilities? And how do you build new teams, new assets, new processes?”

Gate One’s team will be based within the Havas New York ‘village’, which is primarily made up of British consultants moving to the States. Phillips says the team will total 20 by the end of the year. “We’ve had boots on the ground and have been testing the waters since January of this year. Things are progressing pretty well.”

Though it’s beginning the move with GSK and targeting life sciences, healthcare and pharmaceutical clients in the US, Phillips says Gate One will also be piggybacking on Havas’s existing client roster as it scales up. As well as bolstering its parent company’s arsenal, it’ll see Gate One diversify its client base.

Phillips says: “While we do work with CMOs, we will often work with also CDOs, CEOs, CFOs – it’s a more traditional client base for a management consultancy. But obviously, it’s quite useful – as Havas is trying to maximize value for their clients – to be able to have a conversation and say ‘You have this challenge and we have a new capability in the Havas toolbox that can help you solve that particular problem.’”

The consultancy is a key tool in Havas’s efforts to compete with Deloitte and Accenture Song, with which Gate One has competed against in Britain, alongside other ‘Big Four’ consultancies EY and PwC.

Nerlich says: “Traditional consultancies are trying to close the creativity gap by acquiring agencies but, as an agency, we already have the luxury of depth of talent in the creative space. This move allows us to unlock creative problem solving higher up the funnel.“

The company heavily recruits former Big Four workers with an “entrepreneurial” mindset, says Phillips, and operates an in-house incubator to help staff kick off their own business ideas, with seed capital on offer.

“We deliberately hire consultants out of the big firms who are already entrepreneurially wired,” says Phillips. “We give our consultants time, a framework and the training to set up their own businesses. That allows us to hire and attract those guys who have a hankering to pursue their own startup gig while they work in consulting.”

He suggests the chance to partner with Havas’s North American agencies would help it compete against consultancies already established in the US. “We’re extremely sticky with the right kind of client. Unlike other consultants, we don’t just stick to the advisory, we actually help clients make the changes on the ground by doing it with them.

“The other differentiation is our close association and partnership with this vast network… we’ve skilled ourselves up. We know more about the marketing world, we can tap into the skills and experience of Havas and bridge off its relationships. And we can sit alongside our Havas colleagues and provide a ‘plug-in’ that provides additional value to the client.”

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