Baptiste Clinet — Executive Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather Paris

Baptiste talks to TheNextGag about his latest work for Coca-Cola, his ambition as a creative leader, why he enjoys judging awards competitions and what makes a good client.

Baptiste Clinet is the Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy & Mather Paris in France.

He has enjoyed a stellar progression is his career from being hired only after only weeks of internship at Fred & Farid Paris Paris, to being named the Best Young Creative Team in the world, and becoming the youngest ECD of Ogilvy Paris, after winning more than hundred of creative prizes so far.

THENEXTGAG: TO TALK A BIT ABOUT YOUR LATEST CAMPAIGN, “TOGETHER” FOR COCA-COLA: CAN YOU TELL US WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH A RENOWNED PHOTOGRAPHER, SUCH AS DAVID LACHAPELLE ?

BAPTISTE CLINET: There are a few benefits. To be honest, when you work with a photographer such as David LaChapelle, you have the guarantee of not screwing it up. You know that he will get it right.

Besides, he is one of those photographers that possesses a strong visual universe. And you have to make sure that it won’t submerge the initial idea. That can be complicated. But the reason why we decided to work with David LaChapelle on this campaign, rather than the other photographers that we had shortlisted, was that he has a universe that is as far as possible from what we were trying to do on this print ad, because the ad is basically a white background, whereas he is used to doing concepts with a lot of elements in the background. But he really loved the idea and wanted to get into the heart of the idea, rather than imposing his own style into the idea. So that and his name, and obviously his talent as well, made us believe that we had chosen the right guy for the work.

And on top of that, we took into account what he brings for PR of course. Because it will always be easier to promote a campaign shot by David LaChapelle than to get people talking about a campaign shot by an unknown photographer, even if the latter has a similar talent. Because if the photographer has no notoriety, it can be alright in the ad trade when people mostly talk about the idea, but it will take away much PR in the photography world, or even in the traditional press, whereas if you bring a campaign with the David LaChapelle stamp on it, it will definitely help press coverage of it.

TNG: IS IT A GLOBAL CAMPAIGN ?

BC: Yes, it is. The campaign was made for the launch of the anniversary of the hundred years of the Coca-Cola Contour bottle.

Coca-Cola selected Ogilvy Paris and Wieden+Kennedy Portland to become the global lead agencies for this event. So, basically, it is going to be an ongoing pitch between us two agencies for a two-year time period. We’ve been asked initially to come up with films, outdoor, prints and digital ideas. And for each brief, it is us against Wieden. So far, Wieden has released a film + three product films and we have made one film + three product films and this outdoor campaign.

TNG: SO WHAT ABOUT DIGITAL AND OTHER ACTIVATIONS ?

BC: It is not out yet. Because the anniversary takes place in 2015, we are still in the kick-off period, operations will be happening all year round. There will be activations produced by the Ogilvy network mainly and some also created by McCann Madrid.

But for the launch, the big brief was essentially films and outdoor.

TNG: I WAS ASKING THAT BECAUSE I SAW EARLIER AN INSTAGRAM CAMPAIGN WHERE USERS WERE ASKED TO POST A PICTURE ALONG WITH THE HASHTAG #KISSHAPPINESS …

BC: Sure. That’s all part of the whole communication platform that is being currently set up. In fact, “Kiss Happiness” comes from a film made by Wieden on the idea that when you drink Coke straight from the Contour bottle, it looks as if you were kissing the bottle, hence the “Kiss Happiness” theme.

TNG: A LOT OF THE SUCCESSES FROM OGILVY PARIS CAME FROM CAMPAIGNS MADE FOR ESTABLISHED CLIENTS OF THE AGENCY, SUCH AS DOVE, PERRIER, COCA-COLA OR IBM. WOULD YOU SAY THAT IT IS EASIER TO WORK ON IDEAS FOR LONG-STANDING ACCOUNTS ?

BC: As you said, we are really lucky to have clients in the agency that have been there for so long and that we know really well. It is not that we don’t even need briefs to work on them — because, to be honest, we will never know their businesses as well as them — but, we have the benefits of knowing if our response will be accurate. Because we already know what they like, what they are capable to buy and also in which direction they are heading. That helps us on a creative standpoint, because it saves time, so we are able to be more efficient and propose them quality work as we already know what they are capable of doing and thus we concentrate all our efforts in the right way. Rather than sometimes when you get the whole agency working on a brief and you realise at one point that the client wants everything but that. So yes, it is a good thing to have these longstanding relationships.

And added to that, because, we and the creatives know the brand so well, we still need to keep a fresh eye on these accounts. I try to force myself to always put new creatives on the briefs to make sure that we always bring something new to the work, even though it is the same CD’s and ECD working on the account as they are the safeguards of the brand identity.

At Ogilvy Paris, it is not like in some other agencies where some accounts are restricted and only some of the creatives can work on them. Here, all the briefs are open to anyone. Thanks to that policy, we are guaranteed to pick the very best idea and to have different creatives on each campaign. For example, the last campaigns for Coca-Cola, Perrier and Dove were all done by different creatives.

But on another note, if you take Netflix, our latest account that we won less than a year ago, it is a new client but we still do interesting work with them. And we work well with them even though they are new here, because we have understood their tone and what they wanted to achieve.

So I believe that, more than the duration, it it the quality of the relationship that is really important. Because you can have clients for ten years and still have a bad relationship with them, whereas you can have clients for not even a year, like with Netflix, and have a strong relationship.

The key here is to be open. All these clients are those who treat us like equal partners and not just like their suppliers. That what makes all the difference in my opinion.

TNG: YOU’VE WORKED IN A NATIONAL AGENCY BEFORE AT FFL AND ARE NOW IN AN INTERNATIONAL AGENCY, PART OF THE WPP GROUP. WOULD YOU SAY THAT THE MAIN DIFFERENCE IS THAT YOU DO MOSTLY GLOBAL WORK HERE ?

BC: Clearly. Ogilvy is the most international agency in Paris. By its structure, by its group, by its really strong network, that is based in New York. In fact, the two biggest agencies in the network are New York and London. The Paris agency comes in third, in terms of employees count and business. But on the creative side, Paris has now ben the best agency of the network, since last year.

So, naturally, we work on the global clients of the network and these are not French. If you look, there are very few French brands that have a true global presence.

That being said, a brand like Perrier, which is a true French brand, has now gone global. As a matter of fact, their biggest market is now the US. So even the French brands that we work with at the Paris office, now use us to create their global work.

But we also have accounts such as Allianz, with who we create really interesting projects and those are becoming more and more interesting, that we only work with for the French market and that’s it. This is an area that I would like us to develop further.

Because, our weakness is in the fact that we are really strong globally. We win a lot of awards in international competitions. In fact, we have won more at Cannes and at the D&Ad in the recent years that we did at the Grand Prix Stratégies or at the French Art Director’s Club. Because it seems that our campaigns are more recognised on the global stage than they are in France. Nowadays, the agency has a better reputation globally than in France. We need to correct that somehow.

TNG: ON A PERSONAL LEVEL, NOW THAT YOU ARE ECD OF A SUCCESSFUL AGENCY, WOULD YOU AGREE TO BECOME JURY MEMBER FOR INTERNATIONAL AWARDS COMPETITIONS ?

BC: Totally. This is on my mind. Because I believe that two things are important when you are a jury member.

The first thing is about information: you meet the best of the best when you judge. And you can learn a lot for the benefits or your own agency. I think that it is super important for me and the CD’s at Ogilvy Paris to be part of the maximum number of juries. I try to push them as much as I can to be selected. Because of all the learning that you receive from other juries, that come from other networks, other agencies. From how they judge a case, what makes them tick. This is information that you can bring home and that will give you the opportunity to rework your case studies, rework your ideas and the way that you package them. So it is really a big deal for me.

I will soon be a judge at the D&AD, in the Films category. And I can’t wait to be there because I believe that our agency must do better on the films that we make. So, that’s why, I am looking forward to see how the other judges, legends such as Ted Royer, the CCO of Droga5, will look at all the films. So that, I can turn that experience into information that I will bring home and feed everyone with.

And the second thing why it is good to be part of a jury is for the ego. That can boost your self-esteem. It is cool.

TNG: BECAUSE, OGILVY PARIS IS MADE OF MANY DIFFERENT AGENCIES, I WANTED TO KNOW IF IT HAPPENS THAT YOU WORK ALONG WITH ANOTHER AGENCY OF THE GROUP.

BC: Yes and no. It can happen sometimes. But we don’t work with others on every project for the reason that we don’t all have the same clients. We are truly different agencies, even though we are all located in the same building and are part of the same group.

Because we are all different agencies, with different types of knowledge and different capacities, we don’t answer to the same briefs.

But on the other hand, we do have similar accounts across the whole group, such as IBM, Dove, Philips or Allianz. And for these clients, we all work as a team. So, we would bring a professional from Ogilvy PR, a digital producer from OgilvyOne, a media guy from Neo@Ogilvy and we will work together. That happens a lot, in fact.

TNG: SO WOULD YOU BE ALLOWED TO BRING AN EXTERNAL PARTNER IF YOU IDENTIFIED THEM AS BEING BENEFICIAL TO AN IDEA OR ARE YOU REQUIRED TO WORK WITH AN AGENCY FROM THE GROUP ?

BC: Yes, we are allowed to do that. There are no mandatory policies to always work together. We do it only when we believe that it is the best thing that we can do for a client.

For example, on the Perrier Secret Place digital operation, we partnered with the studio Fighting Fish, because they were the best ones that could deliver the experience that we wanted.

So, of course, we look for the best partners for our ideas. Always. At least, we try … regarding the client’s budget.

TNG: YOU MUST BE THE CREATIVE THAT HAS THE FASTEST PROGRESSION THAT I’VE SEEN. ARE THERE OTHER CREATIVES THAT YOU LOOK UP TO AND WHOSE CAREER YOU WOULD LIKE TO ACHIEVE ?

BC: Definitely. A lot. First of all, I still don’t believe that I am there yet. I am still hungry.

And the example, that comes first to my mind is David Droga. His career is so impressive that I say to myself that it it almost too late for me to do what he did. See, I was named ECD at 29 years; he was ECD when he was just 23 years old. When I learned the news that I was becoming ECD, I was so happy, so proud of myself and then I saw on Wikipedia that he was Saatchi’s ECD at only 23 … Sure, it wasn’t the same size of agency of even the same network. But still …

In the first place, what I really admire about him, is his entrepreneurship. I can’t really relate here because I work in a big group, with a lot of people that support me and push me forward. I am far from being alone. Whereas him, when he launched Droga5, it was pure entrepreneurship.

And even better than that — and where I am slightly jealous as a creative, it is the fact that they invented everything. They are the ones who came up with the case study, they are the ones who came up with the stunt (back in the days with Air Force One for Ecko). All the advertising tools that we use nowadays come from Droga5. At some point, they were invented there.

Today, they don’t have such an edge anymore for various reasons: because talents come from everywhere, because their strategy of bringing talent from outside the industry with different visions has been replicated by everyone. So, we can say that it has levelled a bit. But Droga5 brought so many things to our industry that their legacy will last. The name, Droga, will last. Whereas in twenty years, I am not sure that Baptiste Clinet will have lasted. I hope that I will have done a great career, but I can’t say that people will remember me after I am gone. But people will remember David Droga. People such as Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, David Droga, David Ogilvy have managed to put their mark into history by changing the way we do advertising and these are the people that I admire. Because being good at what you do is what people expect from you, but to be able to put your mark and change the game, that is truly impressive. And I am not quite there, yet.

You have to be ambitious. Otherwise you will get bored quickly.

TNG: I READ AN INTERVIEW OF YOU IN SHOTS, RIGHT AFTER YOUR NOMINATION. IS THAT PART OF A STRATEGY TO CREATE MORE AWARENESS AROUND YOU GLOBALLY ?

BC: Whether it is for our work or for the people that work here, PR are extremely important.

I learned that from Fred & Farid. Because, their best client throughout their career has always been Fred & Farid. It’s the client for which they delivered the most consistent work. And they managed to teach us that, to Nico, Flo and me, when we were there. This is a learning that I have kept with me ever since.

Because, there are very few creatives in France that you can tell their names without thinking about it. So the way that you promote yourself is crucial. I am fully aware that if we had not made up the “BNF” personal brand earlier in our career, I would not be ECD of Ogilvy Paris today.

Behind all this press lies a recognition program that is super important. Let’s say that in five years I want to take over the Ogilvy creativity in Europe or in the world. To achieve that, I need to have a presence. Today, I am recognised on the French market, right. But I am still new on the global market. I am trying to do better. When we were named the best agency in the world at the D&AD last year, it helped us for the recognition. And this year, I will be in the jury of the D&AD. But I still need to work on my global brand, which is far from being renowned, yet.

So, I reckon that all these interviews are super important to help me get a presence.

TNG: ANYWAY, I AM ROOTING FOR YOU HERE, AND THE “WE ARE FROM LA” DUO, BECAUSE WE DEFINITELY NEED MORE GLOBALLY RECOGNIZED TALENT COMING FROM FRENCH AD AGENCIES. APART FROM FRED & FARID, THEY ARE VERY FEW.

BC: Well, the recognition achieved by Fred & Farid is totally deserved in my opinion. What they are doing with their group is fantastic. They seem to take the same direction as Droga, with different ways so to speak. I admire the career that they had as creatives and the career that they have as entrepreneurs also deserves respect.

Them and Georges Mohammed-Chérif of Buzzman as well. What he has done with Buzzman is great. They went from being an agency only doing one-shots, to now being one the very few agencies in France that make it count. And he did that all by himself, I find that hallucinating. I am a big fan of entrepreneurship in general. Whether it is in advertising or elsewhere, I respect that.

As for me, I am still not there on my personal journey. I believe that I still have a million things to learn. And the day that I will be ready, I want to do it big. I would be ready. But I am not. So, I get inspired by these success stories.

TNG: CAN YOU TELL US IF THE “BNF” (THE TRIO MADE OF BAPTISTE CLINET, NICOLAS LAUTIER AND FLORENT BODET, THAT WAS NAMED THE BEST YOUNG CREATIVES IN FRANCE IN 2011) ARE OVER ?

BC: That’s a good question. And people often ask me that. Yes, the BNF are over.

But at the same time, it is not over. In fact, what we’ve managed to do, is that the BNF went from being a creative team to being the creative lead of the agency. Right now, I am the ECD, but Nico and Flo are CD’s. And the two share about half the accounts of the agency, and all the best brands, such as Coca, Netflix, Nestlé and Stimorol. Really nice brands. And we are always the three of us together, we still see each other the same and we still work together. We got separated but for other reasons. To be honest, I think that I wanted it more than them. I was the one from the trio that was always up for the meetings: accounting, HR and all this stuff. I was curious about that. And as for them, they still wanted to work on ideas. But as I have said, we still work together.

So, we can say that the BNF are still there, but in a different way.

Baptiste Clinet

Ogilvy & Mather

Executive Creative Director

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