En décembre 2010, le groupe Fred&Farid avait été une nouvelle fois au coeur du buzz. Cette fois, point de campagne, mais un parpaing dans la mare des agences de publicité : la création de Hello Sunshine, nouvelle antenne du groupe, qui, on l’a vu, gagne des clients un peu partout. Et depuis, en trois mois, plus de nouvelles. De quoi aiguiser notre curiosité.
C’est donc par une belle journée ensoleillée, que nous nous sommes rendus au 9 avenue Hoche, dans la fourmilière qu’est le groupe Fred&Farid. Accueillis par la Community manager du groupe, Stéphanie, nous entrons directement dans le vif du sujet avec Dawn Ng, Head of Arts de Hello Sunshine et Gwen Raillard, Head of business de l‘agence. Que s’est-il passé en trois mois ? Quelle est la philosophie de cette agence ? Quelle stratégie de développement ont-ils en tête ? C’est en anglais que nous avons abordé toutes ces problématiques.
Les Archivistes: Why have you been so quiet since last December?
Dawn Ng: We’ve been so discrete because we were actually under water, pitching like crazy. We’ve had some good wins already, we have a brand which is like Ikea but with more colourful and poppy fun products, utensils, kitchen wear… So it is gonna be fun, because they have many shops outside Paris. Another one that we have is Puma, for the French market. We have lots of other pitches going on but I can’t say anything, so… to be continued.
L.A. : What is your professional background? How did you make it to becoming CD of Hello Sunshine?
Dawn Ng: I graduated with major in journalism and creative writing, but I did my minor in fine arts.
After university, I started working in New York at BBH. Gwen at that time was at the strategic planning of BBH Singapore. We’ve both been in Singapore, when I came back. Then, I left and made art full-time for one and a half year. We worked together very well and had the same vision of an agency, so we came to Paris for Hello Sunshine.
L.A.: Gwen, you’ve worked for Mother, right ?
Gwen Raillard: Yes, to start with, then I moved to BBH London. Next, I was asked to move to Singapore, and I finally worked for Ogilvy.
L.A.: Dawn is the CD of the agency, but what do you do exactly, Gwen?
G.R.: I handle the business side of the work. I don’t have a precise title. We are too small for titles. We work together. She is the artist, she’s got the eye, and I handle the business and the logistics side of it. The thing we do in common is the recruitment, for either creative people or ‘suits’. They’re recruited by the two of us.
LA.: How many people are working here? Could you tell us about the corporate culture of the agency?
G.R.: We’ve recruited 15 people since last December.
Just some broad principles. We don’t keep people in boxes. We hire hybrids, we hire do-ers, not thinkers. We have a policy to not have repeated precary jobs, temps or exploited interns. Everybody gets a real job and a real pay.
D.N.: It’s like what Gwen says. We are partners. People are on the same level. Of course, it can be different because of levels of seniority, experience, but when they come in, they are all equal, everyone has the right to give a good idea and to be listened to. Hybrid people are also quite interesting because we have hired people who are not only graphic designers. The can do web, they have a real craftmanship, they can do art. I’m not looking for people who will say « my whole life my job will be touching up images ». I really want people who have different backgrounds. Because, the more backgrounds you have, the more you bring as content, on the table.
L.A.: About your new agency, do you consider having a specific mission?
G.R.: I don’t think that we have a mission. We are not here to say to other people, « hey, what you are doing is wrong ». We are here to make things we believe in, that we think is fundamental for us as individuals. We are also here to give our clients what they need to be sucessful.
L.A.: But on competitions, how do we see the philosophy of Hello Sunshine?
G.R.: Yes, we have a real philosophy, an editorial line which is the idea that Brands will be successful according to how they can embrace optimism and make people believe in the future.
We treat HOSE like a brand in itself, not only for the launch, but we want to treat our website as a gallery, so that people can go down, things completely new will pop up, so we keep building content and collaterals that come out.
L.A.: Do you think it will turn into a massive trend in the coming years? Last year, we saw displays like the one made by La Rinascente, Wallpaper* Magazine with its paper-crafted cover…
D.N.: Paper has been building up, starting in art and ending up in advertising. It’s not just paper, it’s this kind of direction which was taken by creative, handmade, rebounding away from very touched up images, final and digital, for something which is more natural. I think it is quite a natural trend, because the early 2000s, there was really sleek imagery, with Philip Starck and very clean lines and perfect things and I think people just want to feel what is real again. And there’s something missing when you have everything on the web. It’s almost like you want to do things in a very hi-fi and lo-fi way at the same time and put it together.
L.A.: Let’s talk about the recent productions of the worldwide advertising sector. Which ads stunned you or appaled you during the Superbowl?
D.N.: The Superbowl ads were argh…
G.R.: It’s becoming shit. All my favourite ads are between 5 and 10 years old. I’m not an old guy who only likes old things, but I think there is a reality in our industry which is procurement and processes become so heavy that it is difficult to do great stuff and to make spectacular things.
L.A.: You have both worked for anglo-saxon agencies, BBH, Mother… and you are in a French agency now. What is the main difference to you between these cultures ? What are the elements you try to maintain and reproduce here?
G.R.: Very simply, anglo-saxon culture tends to have more efficient system, in the thinking, the processes… french culture is more latent, less efficient, but once in a while, you meet people who are more « free-flow » and therefore can shine more. So, you have more mistakes, but also more brilliance. We are trying to combine both, but we actually focus on hiring interesting people and give a little bit of structure to the thinking.
L.A.: Are you trying to reach a particular size ? Do you have a model as an agency ?
G.R.: We do have a model, an agency that we like and that’s a good benchmark for practices. It’s KesselsKramer in Amsterdam, you really should check it out. They have been like 45 people in the ten past years and they refuse to grow because it has the proper human size, it’s the size to make the right amount of money, they still know each other, they do the kind of work that they want to do, they don’t have to compromise, they choose their projects and clients. They bought a church in Amsterdam, which they turned into an office. Because it’s their building, they have a lot of cash, so they have less overheads, so they function quite well, they’re not under stress, they don’t depend on every client to survive and make it to the next quarter, to please, like Sir Martin Sorrell or Maurice Lévy. That’s a healthy model for an agency.
L.A.: You seem not to be fond of processes and be more of do-ers versus thinkers. How is it related ? Does that mean that your work isn’t very much based on strategic planning?
G.R.: Strategic planning has nothing to do with processes. It’s an intellectual project which can be done with a feel-free kind of way. We wera both strategic planners, so we have this way of thinking. What we meant was « be sure of what you’re doing before you actually start », that’s no more than that.
When talking about processes, big agencies are selling processes and methods, because when you reach 10,000 employees, you have to sell method.
D.N.: When I talk about thinkers and do-ers, I think about my creatives. Ideas are cheap, everyone can have a good idea. Execution is everything, if you don’t do it, it’s just nothing. It’s like a school of thoughts that I have and that I really believe in: don’t tell me about your idea, tell me how it’s done. Do it, just go ahead and do it. Recently we had the Dead Drops project. One of our creatives wanted to do it, and he was wondering « should we do it… », I said « Do it and we’ll see ! ». If people don’t like it , so we were one of the first agencies to have it.
G.R.: When we make a decision about Hello Sunshine, we think about it as a collective of artists. When it comes to campaigns for clients we become more rigorous, when it is to promote our own brand, we think as a group of artists.
L.A.: Is it a new business model for agencies? You said that you don’t hire interns or temps but only people for good. Is it a new way of doing things rapidly? On people working together?
G.R.: Absolutely. Well, we provide only permanent jobs just because we are comitted to our staff. We didn’t want to exploit interns. All big groups create fake internships so that they can exploit people when they’re still students, attract them and just lure them. We are making real money, so we can afford to create real jobs. What we want is to live the values we are promoting.
L.A.: Do you sometimes work with Fred and Farid or are the agencies totally isolated?
G.R.: Personally, I do, because I kind of started here before HOSE was created, so there were projects that I was working on. It’s hard to drop it and move on.
In other circumstances we try to collaborate. When someone asks for Fred&Farid to pitch for their business, sometimes they ask us to pick it up and to work together. But in day-to-day job, we make our best to separate our tasks.
L.A.: How do you integrate digital in your activities?
G.R.: We are a print or a digital or an outdoor agency. We work for brands and we do what is best for them. We are not celebrating just digital, we understand how it works. People who work with us have it in their DNA. They made their own websites, picking up stuff here and there, so it’s in the blood of the agency to do everything and not to be focused on a specific media.
L.A.: How is the importance of handcrafted stuff going to interact with digital? Do you think it’ll lead to a decrease in interest for digital stuff?
D.N.: No, no. I think that there are going to be more collaborations, exchanges between the two. They both help each other to be better and to improve.