Ann Bouthillier steps down as Havas Canada CEO

Helen Pak is promoted to lead Canadian operations as the agency's long-time leader looks to other opportunities.


Havas Worldwide Canada’s Ann Bouthillier (pictured, left) is stepping down from her post as CEO, effective today. 

Helen Pak, previously president and chief creative officer, has been promoted to the position while also retaining her CCO duties.

Bouthillier will remain in a consulting role until the end of the year to assist with the transition, as well as help Pak hire a new leader to manage Havas’ office in Montreal, where she was previously based.

“For the first time in my life, I don’t have a B plan,” says Bouthillier, who will be taking some time off before pursuing other interests. “I always focus on the A plan, which was Havas. Now I feel like I have accomplished all of the goals I wanted to pursue, from the regional to national levels, integrating our expertise and being in healthy shape as an advertising agency.”

Bouthillier first joined the agency in the account service department in 1991 when it was still known as Palm Publicite Marketing. In her time there, she has seen it through its rebranding to become Palm Arnold, its sale to Havas Worldwide in 2005 and, in 2009, another rebranding to Palm + Havas when she also took over as president and CEO from agency founder Pierre Mercier, helping to open a permanent office in Toronto a month into her new role.

In December, Havas restructured its Canadian operations, bringing the offices in Montreal and Toronto, as well as its media, analytics and digital offerings together under the Havas Worldwide Canada banner, with Bouthillier leading it as CEO and adding Pak to the leadership team. In February, Havas acquired Plastic Mobile, adding the mobile-focused agency’s expertise to its integrated offering.

Pak came to Havas from Facebook, which she joined a year prior as global creative strategist and Canadian lead after six years at Saatchi & Saatchi, with other creative stints at Ogilvy & Mather, Taxi and JWT.

“I also wanted to make sure we had a good leader before leaving, and Helen has great expertise and combination with social media,” Bouthillier says. “I feel we share the same values and Havas will be in great hands with her.”

As CEO, Pak says she will continue many of the goals Havas has focused on under Bouthillier since the restructuring, including growing the agency’s talent, particularly in Quebec, and continuing to bring all of its resources together as an integrated offering.

“Integration is and has been a big priority for us, focusing on media and innovation and creativity and how all three of them intersect,” Pak says. “That also means really bridging the offices, not only Toronto and Montreal but Plastic Mobile as well, and offering our clients a unique integrated offering is key. Plastic has deep expertise and are leaders in m-commerce, and we really see that as an added benefit.”

So far this year, Havas has already added nearly a dozen new staff members outside of the Plastic acquisition, including Cory Eisentraut as VP/CD and Brian Allen as ACD in April, as well as Peter Gomes and Dave Pigeon as ACDs last month. Zeb Barrett also joined as VP of planning last month to guide Havas’ new national planning group, something Pak says is another opportunity to bridge strengths between offices. Pak says Havas will have more hires and promotions to announce by the fall.

In terms of client growth, Havas has won work from furniture and appliance retailer BrandSource and the digital business for Quebec-based drug store chain Jean Coutu.

“Canada is a high-priority market for Havas and we’ve already seen the payoff from our increased focus in the last year,” said Havas Creative Group and Havas Worldwide CEO Andrew Benett in a press release. “With Helen’s considerable experience on the creative side of the digital, social and agency worlds, plus the supporting leadership of the rest of the HWW Canada team, the agency is in extremely capable hands to meet our growth goals.”