<strong>Joshua SMITH</strong>
Joshua SMITH

Executive Trainer & Edtech Co-founder @ Coursely.eu. Head of Higher Education Partnerships & Adjunct Teacher Recruiting in France.

33. Marie-Charlotte Lafront, Account Director

Account Director for Being, Marie-Charlotte Lafront has +14 years experience as the first point of contact with the client orchestrating advertising campaigns between the creative team and the client to make everything work well and on budget.

How does your job fit into the advertising process? When you’re commercial you’re like an orchesta leader. You’re the first point of contact with the client and you relay their communication to the creative team in order to make sure everything works well and on budget. That is the main function of my job.

I receive the client’s raw notes and transform them into the brief so that the creative team can understand and interpret it. I find the angle, the question the creative team must answer.

Also, depending on the time and the client’s objective, I may conduct branding strategy. If the client has been around a long time, then they should already have a solid branding strategy in place, so I just have to know their strategic platform and fit their brief into it.

If it’s a new client, then I must first figure out their branding strategy, then fit the brief into the strategic platform.

After the brief has been created I hand it off to the creative time for idea generation. Again, this varies on time and budget, but in a perfect world, 3 weeks is enough time to brainstorm ideas and come up with 1-2 great ideas and accompanying mood board (a board explaining the storyline and the atmosphere of the ad) or mockups (rough drafts of what the finished product would look like) to pitch to the client. Your pitch should be two ideas at the most. Presenting the client with too many ideas could lead the client to thinking your not confident about your work or that they may begin picking and choosing among your ideas, which could become a nightmare for you.

Before we pitch to the client we present our idea to our legal team to make sure it doesn’t violate any copyright laws and conforms to the Bureau de Verification de la Publicitié (BVP)‘s acceptable advertising norms, which have ties to French legislation so that you don’t sell the client on an idea that legally you cannot provide.

For example, in France ads cannot portray children eating food in front of the television, and children cannot be portrayed eating junk food. If you’re advertising toys you cannot show children alone or near water because it it could lead children to do this and risk falling into their swimming pool. You also cannot have advertising with a fridge remaining open because you’re wasting energy. Little things you could never image are controlled by the BVP.

Once the has been verified by the legal team and accepted by the client, we begin creating the ad campaign. In a perfect world, this could take about one month working with the production agency and/or the event planning agencies.

Before the filming or shooting, we sit down for the Pre-Production Meeting (PPM) to go over the props, setting, and models/actresses. Everything is screened to make sure the client is happy beforehand.

Sometimes during the PPM the client hasn’t come to an agreement amongst themselves, sometimes they want to make changes during the PPM, sometimes the big boss shows up and doesn’t agree with his team’s already agreed on ideas. Sometimes it’s little things you can work with, but sometimes you have to be firm: “We can make your changes, but it’s going to delay your ad campaign by this amount of time and cost this much extra money. Is this what you want to do?”

Then is the filming. I’m there during the PPM and, if the client goes to the shooting, then I’m there too because the client will surely have a few modifications they want made on the spot.

Then is the post production work. After the post production we present the client with the final product. However before the ad is launched, clients often hire agencies specialized in group marketing testing to predict whether or not the ad campaign will be successful as is. If the client requests, we can include the group marketing tests along with the advertising campaign creation, however usually the client does this on their own using companies such as:

Then, based on the results of these tests, the client comes back to us with any modifications they want made to the final product.

What is an advertising campaign you’ve worked on?

What does a good brief look like? Sometimes it’s not very clear, even for the client, but your brief to the creative team must explain very clearly and concisely the product or the offer. Your brief must include the product’s:
  • Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
  • Reason-Why the product exists

These are the two essential elements of a good brief. After that it depends on what you have to sell. Be clear about the target, budget, and timing. You cannot do the same thing in 1 week as you can in 1 month, and you cannot do the same with with $1,000 as you can with $100,000.

I agree with Eric Holden, Senior Creative Director of TBWA that “If you work 8 hours on a brief, you’ll have 8 hours of ideas. If there’s another team working on same brief for 24 hours, they’ll have improbable ideas. It’s the difference between a lamb cooked for only 3 hours versus a lamb cooked for 9 hours.

Finally, the shorter your brief, the better. If it’s too long, then your work isn’t good enough. 1-2 pages maximum. You have to focus on the problem you need to solve.

How do you come up with ideas? Your level of creativity depends on the willingness and open-mindedness of the client, the client’s branding strategy, and the client’s demographic, but you can advertise anything creatively if the client is willing. For example this is a chocolate pudding that was aired in France:

What’s an lesson you’ve learned? Advertising is a lot of work and everything seems to be extremely and equally important. With advertising, you can have the feeling that the reputation and future of your brand is riding on this ad campaign, which is true to a point. But usually it’s the mountain that gives birth to the mouse. Everything could seem dramatic and important, but you must stay in control and calm. But after all, it’s just advertising.

How do you deal with clients who want short-term results without thinking long-term? An ad agency is also an advising agency, and we do our job the best we can, but if after that the client wants what they want, then we give it to them.

What are elements of a good advertising campaign? There’s no perfect recipe, but I think it all starts with a strong brief and a very involved creative team. That’s the best way to make good strong copy. If everyone from the client to the creative team is involved in the creation of the ad with the feeling that you’re all working together for a common goal, then you’ll create something really exciting in the end.

How do you handle the void between clients who want more sales and creative teams who want to win awards? Perrier managed to accomplish this with with ‘The Dita Von Tesse Experience’, however handling this void can be a nightmare for the commercial team because you’re always stuck between both, and it’s extremely difficult to have both.

Sometimes you have good copy what sells a lot and it’s impossible to explain why. Sometimes all the test and product testing looks good, but the ad ultimately fails. That’s the magical part of advertising: Luck and Chance. The right message at the right moment.

How do I test my ad campaign on a low budget? You really should hire people who specialize in market testing because they know how to ask the right questions to get the right answers. Just asking random people on the street or on the internet isn’t always enough. It’s more than just listening to people. You need people able to understand what isn’t being said. If you want good results to make the minor changes to your copy, you really should consider working with professionals.

I agree with Dominic Dangerfield, Co Director of Speechmark that “What people say they want, and what they actually want isn’t always the same thing. People don’t always know what they want”.

If you don’t have the money, then don’t test. Just throw it out there and see what happens. It’s best to understand your target demographic as best as you can and then just trust your instinct.

How do you develop a good instinct? Some products and ideas are instant hits, and some are destined to be bad forever. It’s like playing tennis. Some people are good at seeing creation, some will be bad at it forever. Your goal is to learn to understand creation. The more you see GOOD creation, the better you become at spotting good creation from the bad. Surround yourself with only the best creations and products and websites and creative people so you have something to strive for, and it helps you develop your instinct. Follow creative people on Facebook or in an RSS reader so you constantly have good creative ideas streaming in front of your eyes. Sooner or later it will rub off on you. And don’t only follow advertising, follow everything.

Where do you go to for ideas and inspiration? Cyroul.com

What is a misconception clients commonly have? Sometimes clients are apprehensive when working with creative teams believing that they’re only goal is to win awards without considering the needs of the client.

Sometimes people think that everything is possible without understanding the process enough to know that it takes time and money to do a proper job.

Sometimes it’s complicated to say NO to a client. The client’s idea might be unfeasible or not a good idea, or maybe the creative team just doesn’t want to do it. It’s not easy for the commercial team to explain NO and find other solutions that will be accepted by both the client and the creative team. This happens sometimes.

Advice for  someone who wants to do your job? The first few years are very important and the kind of agency you begin your career with is very important. Examine their work, their culture, their spirit, their attitude, their character closely. Because it acts as an anchor for the rest of your career. Be selective and choose wisely.

I have a small advertising budget, any advice? In no particular order:

  • First determine who is your target.
  • On a limited budget, media like television and print might be unaffordable, so digital will be your best bet. Be extremely clever and creative to get earned media. Hire or form a partnership with a small digital agency, but be careful with just throwing your budget into creation without thinking about your media and branding strategy.
  • Have a clever creation and a good media strategy. Especially when you don’t have a lot of power or money. It’s very difficult to calculate earned media.
  • When people say during the PPM “We’ll handle that in post-production”, you can be certain you’re going to have big problems during the post-production.  Don’t end your PPM until ALL of your problems have been solved and agreed upon. If you don’t, then problems will only get bigger and bigger, and more costly.
  • With a small advertising budget, advertising is probably not your best option.

One response to “33. Marie-Charlotte Lafront, Account Director”

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