Global Account Manager for JWT, blogger for Confidential Shops and one of four co-authors of La Michauré, Isabelle Nancy has +10 years experience building brand strategies, ensuring consistency in digital and traditional marketing channels, and identifying new business opportunities.
How does your job fit into the advertising process? I’m in charge of the overall marketing process. I’m the conductor between JWT and its clients. On the agency-side, I manage account managers and executives, help to build the brand strategy, work with brand managers on the client-side to ensure consistency in digital and traditional marketing channels and that marketing objectives are being met. Finally, I’m responsible for identifying new business opportunities.
When things go wrong, it’s my neck on the line and I’m responsible for finding solutions to get the project back on track and completed, on time and on budget. Typical problems advertising campaigns run into include:
- Budgeting problems.
- Internal or relationship problems – a typical advertising project changes hands many times between the brief to the final product. People have different deadlines and ways of working and we must not lose sight of the initial purpose.
- Equipment & materials – Making sure everyone has exactly what they need to do their part of the campaign correctly.
Even before the client can ask us to do anything, everything starts with the brief. We need to know:
- What product(s) they want to advertise and why
- The context: who is their target demographic and who are their competitors
- Any limitations (budget, time, legal obligations, etc)
- Their unique selling point (USP) and reason to believe (RTB)
“So you want to talk about your new car? Okay, so what makes your new car so unique? 100+ unique colors? That’s great: So consumers can have a car with a unique color no one else will have. And that matches the tailor-made insights we identified regarding your target demographic.”
From the brief, while working on the creative idea, we also have to research and identify which channel(s) are the best route to take to reach the objective.
“We know your target demographic is very digitally responsive and we need to embody fun. Creating a buzz-worthy video is a very good way to share your color innovation.”
Yes, sometimes the client comes to us with the goal of making a television commercial, and gives us their objectives without us researching to determine the best channel for their message, and it’s our job to do our best to meet their objectives based on their ideas, and to challenge this if needed.
When I started in advertising it was strictly “above the line”: television, print, radio… However as technology integrated more and more into modern society, advertising agencies began including more “below the line” advertising in the overall process: digital, internet, direct marketing, CRM, online and offline, point of sales… This 360° conception is something which is just completely basic today.
What’s an advertising campaign you’ve worked on?
And this is a shot from a recent Michauré…
What are some misconceptions people commonly have? A few I’ve encountered:
1. That we are creative. We are not. Everyday life is creative. We are just the medium, a kind of prism with the ability to capture and anchor who people are and the best way to tell people’s stories.
2. That we live miles away from specific business stakes and realities. Not true. We are just people who see beyond the surface of a product and into the heart of the brand. Short-term visions and objectives are not the key to making businesses last.
3. That our job is all play and no work. False. Our job is anchoring what’s fun and great into the products we advertise for. Fun is contageous, but our job and responsibilities are very serious.
4. To go deeper into client’s misconceptions, let me remind you of a fundamental marketing ‘cliché’ which is key to understanding what impossible request brands are facing every day.
Some people can believe that advertising will solve all their problems as well as be:
Advertising agences do their best to provide all three, and there are those few magical creative ideas that accomplish all three, but more often than not brands have to choose between two of them rather than having all three of those options.
Those in advertising know that if you want inexpensive, your campaign can be quick, but it probably won’t be as high-quality as you’d like it to be. If you want it quick, then it will be expensive and maybe not as of high-quality. If you want high-quality, then it probably can’t be done inexpensively.
5. Fixating on the idea that the ONLY solution your brand needs is a viral video can cause you to miss out on even greater opportunities that might be readily available to you that you just can’t yet see.
6. There’s a general belief that advertising companies still function as depicted in the Mad Men television series.This misconception does have its advantages – when you come into work you can just be yourself and be fun, tell jokes, be crazy, and do things you could never be able to do in a more serious job setting. That’s an inevitable consequence of our creative skills.
However… and I’m talking to new advertising generations here: What has really changed since the Mad Men old times is that back then technology wasn’t included in the advertising process as it is now. Idea is not enough. From my point of view, today you must move faster and love technology to be a good advertiser. Opportunities are in technology that are science fiction today but will be reality tomorrow.
You studied philosophy, how has that helped your career in advertising? It helps when you can develop an idea. As you progress in the advertising industry, you do more strategic work, so you really have to understand how a brand works and how society works, and which levers you have to pull to get people to understand your brands message.
Philosophy addresses this. Advertising of yesteryear favored people with literary backgrounds. Literary is still important, but so is philosophy and psychology – being able to understand how people think and rationalize.
Today, agencies look for people with backgrounds in economics and marketing. I’m one of the few remaining from the era of literary recruitement. It’s more and more rare for agencies to recruit people who haven’t studied economics and marketing.
What are some rules of thumb for making viral videos? When using the internet and social media platforms, videos must be entertaining. On the internet, people have no patience. There is so much advertising on the internet that consumers learn to ignore it, and so much advertising is intrusive that people learn to hate it.
One reason people share videos is because they already know and like the brand, and therefore have a natural proclivity towards sharing what they like. Most of the time, within the first few video frames they’ve already decided whether or not they will share your video. So you really need to provoke an emotional response very quickly.
E-reputation dictates that if a person discovers and shares something interesting, then that person feels like a god on the internet. Further, if that person’s social network likes what that person shared, it’s social proof and means that that person has good taste and is somebody who finds and identifies interesting things, which means that that person will receive more followers.
That’s what advertisers do. We play with codes. Advertising agencies are trend searchers, and we have to understand before everyone else which trends are going to exist tomorrow and use them to make sure that once a trend is born a brand can use them to communicate with their consumers.
Remember Budweiser’s ‘Wassup’ campaign? They created a kind of brand idiomatism which is just perfect. Consumers want to “get” new things: information, technology, vocabulary, service, recreation, anything new and exciting.
Tippex in France was another good example of a viral campaign. This is fun, quick, easy, even if the message is quite completely disconnected with the reality of the product.
You know, the internet is really changing the world and it is just beginning. Crowdfunding, long-tail… All these new sociological processes will have a strong impact on brands. That is what’s really fascinating in communication today because brands won’t be transmitting for long. One-to-one communcation is just the beginning of the new model.
How exactly do you identify trends? Curiosity. Always. But I would say you have two kinds of trends. Classic trends and Prospective trends. Observing everyday people in the street, talking with the younger generations, and surfing Youtube are perfect for identifying classic trends.
Philippe Michel, one of the greatest French creative directors used to come into work and ask everybody “What did you discover this week?” If you didn’t have an answer for him, he would kick you out of the office until you discovered something.
But if you’re looking for prospective trends, Youtube isn’t the right process because once you go to Youtube it’s already too late; you have to look elsewhere. Most of the time prospective trends are in technology and, I know it sounds kind of crazy, but I think prospective can also be found in science fiction books.
In advertising, it’s our job to discover, and you can’t do your job if you aren’t discovering things. It’s impossible. And you won’t discover things if you’re only watching television and looking in places where already discovered things are just hitting mainstream.
Where do you go for inspiration? In the real world, and in other ones too. Sometimes in my dreams, and more often in my bathtub. Everything is inspiration: a supermarket or subway.
A few websites I visit are:
What are some rules of thumb for branding? Permanent and positive associations between the brand with everyday objects, music sounds, and colors are the ultimate objective in branding. When a brand permeates so deeply into culture that just by seeing the colors red and white, you immediately think Coca-Cola.
But there’s a thin red line. An apple represents health, knowledge (and also sin: remember Adam and Eve). So all those strong associations are conjured up when you see an Apple product (an American study shows that looking at an Apple device activates the same area of the brain that when a catholic looks at an image of Jesus). But the more the brand becomes iconic, the harder it has to work to avoid becoming a commodity. Apple is not a simple apple. And it starts with the product itself.
This is something that is becoming more and more true as, with internet, reality of a product is closely dissected by consumers. It’s hard today to build a brand if the product doesn’t meet the highest standards.
What’s one of your favorite advertising campaigns?
You want me to choose between my mom and my dad ? Fine. I very much love Bernard Naville dit for France Telecom: “Goal”, I feel as I won kind of worldwilde cup or something, as much as I love Hamlet Cigar saga, as much as I love most of Bill Bernbach’s Volkswagen ads, as much as I love 1984 Ridley Scott’s launch masterpiece, as much as I love Harvey Nichols sales print ads, as much as I love what Castrol did in south Africa with their “mad about oil” campaign, as much as I love the ad job Gabriel Gaultier did for Eurostar, as much as I love the BBDO HBO digital campaign, as much as I love the Fedex American copies,as much as I love the Chrysler ‘Made in Detroit’ campaign, as much as I love my mom and my dad.
What’s an important lesson you’ve learned from experience?
- Make sure you understand (people, the brief, your boss, how your computer works, and more generally, how the world works.)
- Make sure you are sure (believe in your idea, be ready to defend it, adn change your mind only once, and only if there is a better idea.)
- DO. Make sure it’s well done. (Always check and then double-check, then check again.)
- And of course no one is irreplaceable. But I don’t believe this one…
Stay up-to-date with everything relevant to your brand as best as you can, and then learn from your mistakes, adapt, and move on. You’ll find that your followers and consumers will be more lenient with you than you realize. You might even find that what you thought was a mistake, and what statistics told you was a mistake, turns out to be a huge success! There are no rules!
I have a small advertising budget, any advice? As a small start-up, identify your niche community, and identify things and ideas that your niche community all have in common. Then work on permeating your brand and logo into their everyday life by attaching them to something in their everyday life and communicating around it. Being useful to people is a great door opener.