Inside the agency: Havas heads to King’s Cross in London

Until this month, Havas’ 1,700 U.K.-based employees had been scattered across seven London locations. But now they have no excuse to avoid grabbing that coffee.

The group’s newly built European headquarters, HKX, opened at King’s Cross in February to unite its 24 U.K. agencies, including Havas Media and Havas London, under one roof. Four years in the making, the new space is No. 47 of the 50 so-called villages Havas is building before 2017 is over.

“It was very hard for people to understand how we are structured,” explained Yannick Bolloré, Havas CEO, at the HKX launch party last Thursday. “Now we are open for everybody.”

Across 10 floors, the agency’s divisions now bleed into one another, with different disciplines hot-desking on each floor. Apart from the private meeting spaces and staff lockers, everywhere on its 10 floors is up for grabs.

One of the building’s staircases, which force traffic to zig-zag across the building.

Chris Hirst, chairman and CEO of Havas UK, explained the building is designed with the “collision of people and ideas” in mind. “The more we interact with each other in communal, inspiring spaces, the more likely it is that solutions that cross boundaries will appear for the benefit of our clients,” he said.

In fact, architect MCM’s design for the building makes it impossible to go up more than two flights of stairs at a time: Traffic is forced through its break-out spaces and out the other side.

Elsewhere, there’s an emphasis on the staff’s ease of use. For instance, the Amazon delivery lockers or the new subsidized canteen serving food and coffee from Bermondsey jaunt Hej.

Inside the HKX canteen, which serves subsidized food and drink to staff.

Outside, Havas is in good company. The area surrounding King’s Cross Station is also home to Google, Guardian Media Group and art school Central Saint Martins. “We’re at the intersection of the best of technology and the best of creativity,” explained Bolloré. Handily for the French group, there’s also the Eurostar terminal, which reaches Paris in under three hours. Some of the team have nicknamed the underwater train route their second office.

One of the HKX meeting rooms with a view over the King’s Cross redevelopment area.

And like many other agencies, Havas is on a consolidation drive. Following its most recent restructuring, the agency’s creative and media groups no longer exist. Now, they are business units under the Havas P&L. Essentially, it wants to be a one-stop shop that’s all things to all people.

“Eighteen months ago, we pitched for Sears. The CMO told me they were partnered with 80 different agencies,” said Bolloré. “His predecessor had hired people just to handle those relationships.”

With the new office, Havas is betting on the fact that U.K. clients will want simplicity, scale and, perhaps, good company too.

The auditorium space at HKX, which is designed to host events and large company meetings.

Recreation areas are dotted throughout the building, including table football and ping pong, of course.

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