Chris Hirst

European & UK Group CEO, Havas

Biography

Chris went to school in rural Northumberland to one of the only 2 state schools in the UK with a boarding wing (although he lived literally over the road). For reasons, which now escape him, he studied Maths and Physics at ‘A’ level and chose engineering as a career.

During his year out he worked as an apprentice for Pilkington Glass in St Helens, which amongst other things convinced him he didn’t want to work in a factory for the rest of his life. As a result, on graduating, he rather arbitrarily resolved to try and get a job in advertising.

Since then, Chris has worked at a range of agencies, from small start-ups to big global networks and has worked on brands as varied as Audi, Levi’s, Skoda, BBC Radio 1 and TAG Heuer.

In 2010 Chris was made CEO of Grey London with a brief to try and make the failing, ‘safe, but dull’ agency a success.

During his time in charge Grey has become one of London’s most awarded and fastest growing agencies, doubling in size from 200 to over 400 people.

Clients won include GSK Global, Gillette, Vodafone, HSBC, Volvo, McVities, Brother, Dairy Crest, News UK and Lucozade.

Grey’s BHF ‘Vinnie’ Campaign recently won a coveted Gold and Black Lion at Cannes for both creativity and proven effectiveness. Other recent multi-award winning campaigns include: Vodafone, Puma, The Sun, The Times and Lucozade.

Since 2010 Grey has diversified its business to include strong social, digital, shopper and content functions, which now comprise over 30% of total revenue.

Chris is a regular commentator on business change from Sky News and The Evening Standard to Fast Company and The Huffington Post.

He has a MEng from Brasenose College Oxford and is a graduate of Harvard Business School.

On his day he has a well-oiled backhand and unfortunately for him his favourite things are red wine, chocolate and caffeine.

He’s recently been appointed to the IPA Council and is a participant in the Speakers For Schools initiative.

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