Holmes Report 19 Aug 2013 // 8:57PM GMT
Aarti Shah PROVIDENCE, RI -— Havas PR has created SocialProvidence, a pilot program that brings Venture for America fellows into the agency to launch new products to market. Deemed a startup, SocialProvidence will run as a standalone operation based in Providence with its own six-figure budget. Two recent college graduates and Venture for America fellows, Mike Cunningham and Giuseppe Crosti, have been hired for a two year stint as general managers responsible for the new entity’s P&L. “Their goal isn’t just profitability, it’s bringing to market a product that’s in high demand and has a high utilization rate,” said Renee Harper, EVP of Havas PR and who the fellows will report to. “There’s a high expectation that whatever we invest will be recovered within 18 months of launch.” For now, the new office will consist of only the two fellows who will be counseled by an advisory board that, in addition to Harper, consists of North American CEO Marian Salzman, and two other Havas executives: Chicago-based Ana Nennig and Boston-based Julie Hall, who recently joined Havas from Schneider & Associates. “[The fellows] have developed the bones of a social analytics model and now they have to work on finalizing the product and their marketing plan,” Harper added. Notably, Cunningham is a bioengineering graduate and Crosti studied biology and political science, making them unconventional hires for Havas. While they are paid with benefits by the agency, Venture for America also offers a $100k prize for the most successful endeavor. Havas also retains ownership of the business at the end of the two years. “They commit to a full-year but are meant to grow and go,” Harper said. “Some of the fellows end up going back to grad school, others end up carrying on at startups.” Although this is a pilot program, Harper expects for Havas to become an ongoing partner with Venture for America to staff its Providence office with fellows who can bring new innovations to the firm. “It’s more than the perfect storm and it’s an opportunity not to be missed,” she said. “SocialProvidence is not there to replace other offices, we have a digital media firm and social expertise, but this is filling a market need that is currently unmet.” Havas has previously incorporated youth-centric programs into its mix with products like the Sisterhood that put teens at the core of its first social media laboratory. "This is the first office startup we've done where the startup is in the hands of millennials who we have selected because of their institutional association--VFA--as well as their talents versus because they come with clients or deep expertise," Salzman said. "This is about putting our money where our mouth is, in future first."