Havas Chicago snags Michelin and Bel Brands as it reveals slew of top creative hires

John Norman (L) and Paul Marobella (R)
John Norman (L) and Paul Marobella (R)

Chief Creative Officer John Norman has hit the ground running after joining around six months ago.

Michelin and Bel Brands are the latest names to join Havas Chicago’s roster as it announces a string of new hires and vows to "break the status quo" with creativity. 

The holding company, which credits its Village model for the wins, will now serve as Michelin’s global creative agency of record with a spend estimated to be around $120 million. The leading tire and mobility brand was originally a global media client. 

Meanwhile, the shop has been named the North American agency of record for Bel Brands, which has its U.S. headquarters in Chicago and global headquarters in Paris. Scope as its creative agency partner includes developing breakthrough advertising for its core cheese brands such as Babybel, Laughing Cow and Boursin, as part of an account worth $135 million in media billings, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

"I believe great ideas are brutally simple and come in all shapes and sizes," said John Norman, who took the role of Havas Chicago chief creative officer around six months ago. "Great conceptual thinking is not dead; it’s the heart and soul of our business. Brands deserve thoughtful creative solutions to an ever-changing marketplace."

The seasoned ad pro, who has created renowned work for major brands across Goodby, Wieden+Kennedy, The Martin Agency, TBWA and -- most recently -- Translation, is leading the charge for one of the company’s most important creative assets. 

Norman’s hit the ground running, working with Paul Marobella, chairman and CEO of Havas Creative North America. The team has also snagged business from Topgolf and is developing a campaign for Angostura Bitters.

He continued: "To me, it’s imperative to make creative work that’s as meaningful and impactful as it is celebrated.

"My goal is to build on Havas Chicago’s heritage as an unconventional agency -- from the art on the walls, to the people in the building, to the work we make -- and use human-truth storytelling to bring ideas to life in ways that only Chicago can do through innovative formats and modern platforms. 

"Our vision is to be a world-class, A-list agency that is famous for creative ideas. That requires building a superior craft culture and that everything we do be in service of creativity, which is the direction this agency is headed. With the right partners, the right attitude, and the right talent, I’m full of optimism that we will achieve greatness."

Recent wins have led to a slew of new hires to strengthen the creative team. 

Blake Winfree has come onboard as group creative director at Havas Chicago, while Nick Lipton and Adam Vohlidka have been named group creative directors at Annex, a cultural agency powered by Havas. 

Brian Cooper, a Martin Agency and Wieden & Kennedy vet, has also joined as director of production. 

In addition, Havas has promoted Shelby Georgis to group creative director and Joie Mikitson to executive producer.

Norman continued: "Reigniting a new era of creativity and meaningfulness at Havas Chicago has been and will continue to be my goal in the next six months and beyond. I’m stoked about the progress we’ve made together so far and know we’ll get there by continuing to focus on great creative work made by exceptional talent for iconic American brands. 

"Recruiting and retaining the best talent in the business is crucial to delivering on Havas Chicago’s mission. Over the next six months, my main goal is to win more new business with great work, while continuing to build a team of folks who are masters of their craft."

Norman said the biggest challenge he’s faced since joining is "reminding our culture and talent why we exist," explaining that "breaking the status quo" and being a "positive forced for change in our industry by being respectful and relentless" is why the team get up every morning and do what it does. 

Havas is doubling-down on its positioning to be the most meaningful partner to the modern CMO. Marobella stressed this comes hand-in-hand with its mission to spearhead real transformation within the industry.

He said: "Modern brands require a modern approach to how they engage their consumers and therefore their agency relationships. Our goal has always been to be a force for change in how storytelling, creativity and the work gets made to keep pace with how consumers are now making buy decisions. The brands and agencies that don’t adapt to how powerful creative ideas are delivered on modern platforms are the ones that will be playing catch up. 

"The Chicago agency has been through some change over the last 12 months and I can honestly say that the dynamic today feels electric and energetic. When I have the chance to stand in front of the Chicago agency, I see so many incredible people looking back at me – some who have been here for a decade, along with new faces – who make this agency what it is and are shaping our future. This fills me with great optimism for what comes tomorrow here at Havas Chicago.

Marobella added: "The Havas Chicago agency are experts in helping brands create new value by connecting with emerging generational consumers, leaning into culture and telling their brand stories on modern platforms with modern content. Breaking status quo for an iconic brand is often what unlocks new growth, so take another look at Havas Chicago. We’re here with open arms."

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