"Wilton CEO has Havas helping Save the Children" By Alexander Soule, Published by The Hour on Wednesday, July 12, 2017

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In addressing this year’s graduating class at Bishop Kearney High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., Donna Murphy could not help but reminisce on her own aspirations nearly 40 years ago to become a nurse as she sat in their seats in 1978.

If never getting that R.N. degree, she is doing her part to keep people out of the doctor’s office, and now is marshaling some of her 4,000 employees to promote the health of children globally.


Murphy is CEO of Havas Health & You, leading a marketing organization numbering some 4,000 employees globally that handles marketing for both pharmaceutical companies and insurers as well as consumer wellness companies like FitBit and Weight Watchers.

“It’s a continuum — it’s staying healthy,” Murphy said. “None of our competitors have (both) ... It’s all about you, (whether) you are the patient, you are the doctor, you are the provider.”


France-based Havas has its main U.S. office in New York City and a satellite office in Wilton where Murphy lives, with the Wilton office working with IBM on digital campaigns. In early July, Havas merged with entertainment and content giant Vivendi, with both companies under the control of French billionaire Vincent Bollore.

In mid-June, Murphy rallied more than 100 Havas Health & You agencies to raise funds to furnish support for 100 kids living in poverty, through Fairfield-based Save the Children. Murphy said that Havas came up with the idea and took it to the humanitarian agency, which was eager to put together a program.


“What better than to focus on children that are healthy?” Murphy said. “Everyone has really embraced it — not only is it focused on helping the kids but it is about pulling us all together as a community, and that’s part of our culture.”

Murphy was raised by her mother in Brooklyn, going on to study accounting at Pace University and working a few years at a predecessor company of Ernst & Young before getting hired by Goldman Sachs as an analyst in its commodities group, with women lacking Ivy League degrees in the distinct minority at the time.

She crossed over to Havas in the late 1980s to help it during as massive consolidation campaign when it and other big holding companies were scooping up smaller rivals. Murphy got an offer to be the chief financial officer at an agency, and hesitated in taking the job at first but changed her mind on the advice of her husband Jim Murphy, who is managing partner today at the Stamford investment banking advisory firm Belden Hill Partners.

“My husband said, ‘Do it for some operating experience,’” Murphy recalled. “Here I am 30 years later, and I’ve taken it from 40 people to 4,000.”

In speaking to Bishop Kearney students, Murphy shared a tip she learned on her very first job when she was new at a Brooklyn McDonald’s, staying on after her shift to cash out registers and absorb any other lessons the day might offer as she looked to get ahead.

“As I tell my two children, ‘When you think you are finished — do one more thing,’” Murphy said. “Never forget that no one — absolutely no one — gets anywhere in life without someone else’s help.”