Art Director for Y&R and author of ‘C’est Qui les Créas?,’ Gregory Ferembach has +6 years experience helping clients find the right idea to make advertising, print, digital and/or advertising campaigns.
How does your job fit into the advertising process? My copywriter and I receive the brief from the commercial and strategic planners. This is when the brainstorming phase begins. Our objective is then to find the right idea – be it with words and/or pictures – to make an advertising, print, digital or television campaign. From receiving the brief to pitching our solutions to the client can take anywhere from 3 days up to 3 weeks. With a good brief we’ll leave the meeting with a few good ideas already in mind. After that it’s creative ping pong with my copywriter and I throwing ideas back and forth and building on the ideas. During the brainstorming stage we may throw around over a hundred ideas. For me, pen and paper is the best during this stage.
With print ads the idea must be very concise; consumers must understand the advert in 3-5 seconds. With commercials, short-films, and videos the idea has to be in story form.
We have a few days to come up with the campaign idea, make the rough drafts, and then make several internal presentations to our commercial team, creative director, strategic planners and sometimes the legal team if the idea involves a regulated industry such as the pharmaceutical industry or if you’re talking about someone famous or an idea that a governing body may not permit to be printed or aired on television. After each meeting we make modifications. When everything is good and ready, we pitch it to the client.
The end result will be 2-3 presentable ideas that are all ‘on brief.’ If the client says yes we go on into production and turn the idea into reality.
What are a few campaigns you’ve worked on?
How do you keep track of the production process? When you work on the computer you need to save your progress as you go. Therefore you need a sort of numbering system to keep track of your progress and your most recent work. Every big change you make to your advertising campaign in the production process should be saved under a new name instead of keeping the same document and saving on top of it, but it’s rare you will go back to previous ideas because changes are made for a reason and ideas develop and get better with each step.
Do you have a swipe file where you store ideas? Every creative has his or her own unique ‘filing cabinet.’ My copywriter keeps all his ideas in the same notebook. I prefer post-it notes and stray paper – I have tons of stray paper everywhere. I also keep pictures of things that inspire me or interest me on my iPhone and computer.
I’m a photographer interested in working with an advertising agency, should I contact you? Ideally you want to work through an agent because they will find the work for you. But if you don’t have an agent you could contact a creative within the agency; however a more direct solution would be to contact the Art Buyer at the different agencies. I may work on 2-3 major projects per year, but Art Buyers may work on 2-3 projects a month – They can offer you more opportunities.
How can I identify high-quality creatives? I mentioned that there are agents who represent good creatives – be it photographers, graphic designers, etc. They might be able to connect you with the right person.
Is creativity learned or are you born with it? Both. It’s difficult to identify natural talent because you don’t know if your skill is from your genes or from your education and life experiences. You can have ideas on everything, but you need to be curious. With advertising, I’m not convinced you can do a good job without curiosity. I’ve seen many creative respond to the same exact brief with completely different solutions. With time you can learn to be creative, but what differentiates bad from average from good from very good creatives is curiosity and feeling. Average creatives do an average job. It depends on what you need. But very good, and especially unique creative solutions isn’t easy to do.
When looking for an idea, you can stop once you’ve reached an average idea, but better creative don’t stop there, they keep looking until they’ve discovered something truly unique.
How do you know when your idea is ready to present? Feeling. The creative brief outlines a problem: “We want to sell more cars,’ or ‘Our brand reputation is bad.’ After that nothing else matters. There are no bad briefs. The biggest problem is when the client doesn’t know what they want. They just say ‘Give me a commercial for elderly people.’ And then afterwards they say ‘It’s not young enough.’ So we have worked for nothing because the client didn’t know what they wanted or needed. Most importantly is to know what you want.
Secondly, it’s very hard to have an idea that speaks to everyone because ideas are funny or intelligent because they contain something that the target audience must already know before seeing the advertisement.
For example, in France we have a brand called Milka chocolates, so a lot of French know Milka’s logo is a purple cow. If I want to make an advertisement for Milka showing that Milka makes strawberry chocolate, I could take their purple cow and make it red. French people would understand because they know it’s usually a purple cow.
But if someone doesn’t know Milka is a purple cow, they wouldn’t get the idea. If Milka wanted to expand from France to London where they won’t necessarily know the purple cow, they would have to take a step back and approach it differently. If your brand is just a French brand or an online brand, you can’t use the same idea in different places. You must speak to the specific audience who ‘understands and gets’ the idea.
When you want to speak to everyone, the idea needs to be understood by everyone. That being said, brands that want to speak to everyone tend to be the most difficult to work with and the more generic their advertising will be. The more specific your target, the more commonalities they share, and the more ideas you can build with.
I have a small budget and I want to create my own advertising and branding campaigns, any advice? Don’t.
As a rule of thumb for large companies with huge budgets, spend around 10% of your budget creating and producing your idea – creating flyers or videos, etc. The rest of your budget should go towards buying advertising space.
Often times you have experienced creatives who know good creation that go freelance or open their own small advertising agency. Find and work with them.
Should I invest in public relations, advertising, or branding? For consumers to know you exist you might do a public relations campaign. But really you need to invest in the quality of your idea. Consumers will remember ideas and how you make them feel. So you really want a strong branding idea that can translate from public relations to advertising. An advertisement built on an emotional idea will be remembered it more than an advertisement without an emotional idea (for example a promotion). The idea is what makes you laugh, smile and feel emotion. Consumers will remember that. The only point of publicity is to make consumers remember.
For example, all bottled water is the same. So why would consumers prefer to buy one brand of water over another? It’s because the brand’s position and idea speaks to you and touches you more deeply:
- Evian positions themselves as pure water good for babies, so if it’s good for babies, it’s good for me.
- Contrex positions themselves as a diet supplement for sportive people who want to lose weight.
If you’re trying to sell an expensive product, you need packaging that matches the price otherwise you will fail because consumers will notice the incongruence. Location is also necessary. When people go shopping they choose to shop at places based on price range. Advertising is often there just as a reminder and to say ‘Hello, we still exist;’ advertising is the last thing you do when you launch a product.
Branding is about positioning the brand, and then advertising acts as a way of nudging and influencing consumers. This also depends on the industry. You may be more influenced by consumer advertising campaigns but then care less about what brand of water you buy.
So to put things in order of importance for businesses launching a new product:
- Branding Strategy
- Creative Brief for problem to solve
- Product or Service
- Product design congruent to pricing
What are three of your favorite advertising campaigns?
What’s the story behind ‘C’est Qui les Créas ?,’ I started it in July 2011. In my first job at my first agency I worked on one small aspect of the advertising process, but I was curious to know about all the other people involved in the process – who they were, what they did, and why they did it. At that time there were two major advertising magazines: Stratégies – which is predominantly marketing, and CBNews – which at that time was predominantly creative. Back then CBNews was a weekly publication, however due to some difficult situations, CBNews stopped publication for nearly a year and then relaunched as a monthly publication that focused more on marketing. I launched ‘C’est Qui les Créas ?’ a few months after CBNews stopped publication.
Second, advertising students often contact people in advertising agencies to write their thesis and projects for university. Often they would contact me and ask me questions, and I couldn’t help but notice that they weren’t asking the right questions. I thought that better questions could be asked, and that creatives working in advertising would ask other creatives the questions that would get the best answers from creatives. So since I worked at a big agency and knew a lot of creatives, I decided to start a website that would ask the questions creatives wanted to read about.
At that time I had already been running a weekly newsletter called ‘Le Lien de Lundi’ (The Monday URLs) – a short weekly emailing with 3 links to interesting creative website that I discovered during the week. At that time the newsletter had roughly a thousand subscribers.
So to launch ‘C’est Qui les Créas ?’ I started by interviewing people in my own agency because it was an enormous agency with a lot of good creative, and it’s easier to start a project with the people who are familiar with you. I waited until I had at least 10 interviews before officially launching, rather than just one or two interviews. Blogs with just one or two posts can come across as dead or abandoned.
In creating the name ‘C’est Qui les Créas ?’ I had a few names at first, but in the end Damien Bellon, a fellow art director from BETC advised that ‘you must choose a name that means nothing because if later you decide to branch out and do something different, you can.’ It’s true. If your name is too narrow then you’re limiting what you can do. But I liked the name ‘C’est Qui les Créas ?’ because that is usually the first question you ask after seeing an advertising you like, so I just went with it anyway.
- I attached it to my personal portfolio website because it was easier and cheaper to set up.
- I avoided attaching my name directly to it so people wouldn’t think I was just doing this for self-promotion. I wanted the content and the ideas to be the show piece.
- I started with a small niche of just creatives in the advertising industry. Recently I’ve been branching out to photographers and illustrators who work with creatives.
- I used my newsletter to spread the word about ‘C’est Qui les Créas?’
- I used gossip to my advantage, since people are curious to know what other people in their industry are up to.
How did you advertise your website? To create buzz before the launch I took a screenshot from my website with ten controversial or thought-provoking sentences from my 10 first interviews and wrote ‘One of us said that, but who?’ And every day for 10 days I posted the photo on the ‘C’est Qui les Créas?’ Facebook page.
Over the next four months I posted a new interview every week. Back then when reach was much better (For example a Facebook share was seen by all of your followers and not by just a small percentage) everyone saw all of my posts, so I was able to use that momentum to my advantage.
And I have not made any significant changes to ‘C’est Qui les Créas ?’ since I launched it.
Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t very good as promoting and advertising themselves. If you search for your name on the internet and your personal profile and website isn’t the first to show up – or isn’t even on the first page – then you really need to work to fix that immediately.
How have the 75+ interviews that you have done so far helped your career?
- When I got my job at Leg-Agency. ‘C’est Qui les Créas ?’ had been online for nearly two years and the director who hired me didn’t know I was behind it and he didn’t care. He knew me thanks to my newsletter ‘Le Liens de Lundi.’ The hiring creative director was subscribed to the newsletter and so every week he saw my last name in his inbox. I had shown him my portfolio, and a year later when he needed to hire an art director, I was the first person he thought of.
- When I got my current job at Y&R. The only thing my newsletter and interviews brought me was familiarity. People who introduced me would say ‘This is Gregory Ferembach, He’s ‘C’est Qui les Créas ?’
What are the 5 interviews creatives should read from ‘C’est Qui les Créas?’ In no particular order:
A few websites you would recommend? When I’m searching for something in particular, I search the internet. But good creative aren’t people who see a lot of different things; good creative are people who see things differently.
If you’re interested in receiving my weekly newsletter with creative websites, follow Les Lien de Lundi on Facebook.