53. Julien Hérisson, Freelance Artistic Director

Freelance Art Director, Julien Hérrison has +7 years experience helping brands portray their unique selling proposition and distinguish themselves from their competitors.

How does your job fit into the advertising process? I find ideas for brands – mostly parity products such as food products(products/services that are not different than their competition). I manage advertising campaigns from idea generation through to the final project.

How do you advertise parity products? By helping consumers see a difference.

The brand will usually have an idea about how they want to position their brand or product: i.e. funny, serious, etc. which emotion they want to elicit, demonstration, brand’s tone. This is noted in the brief.

Even if the brand’s products and services are relatively the same as its competitors, each brand has its own unique history and story that makes it unique from every other product or service in its industry. Certain French and American cheeses, for example, may by all accounts taste identically; however it is the brand identity that makes them different in the consumer’s mind.

There are many different techniques advertisers use to differentiate your brand from your competitors. For example, you can create your very own unique selling proposition (USP) by focusing your advertising around your brands:

  1. Product/Brand name
  2. Physical characteristics
  3. Logo/Identity
  4. Packaging
  5. Taste/Flavor
  6. Heritage/History/Reputation
  7. Price
  8. How your product is eaten or used
  9. Competition
  10. How your product is made
  11. Key ingredients
  12. Product lifespan
  13. Personality
  14. Attitude
  15. Already existing advertising
  16. Your consumer
  17. You, the owner or your staff

These approaches and techniques won’t always lead you to the best advertising campaign, but they definitely get you thinking about all the possible solutions and gets your mind wandering; which is crucial to the idea brainstorming process.

[EDITORS NOTE: I would recommend reading the book The Advertising Concept Book by Pete Barry.]

What are a few campaigns you’ve worked on?

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What trends have you noticed in your job that are more effective on consumers? What’s important is that your advertisement touches a definable emotion: funny or sad, etc. Because advertisements have such a short amount in front of the consumer’s eyes, every advertisement you create must:

  1. Capture the consumer’s attention
  2. Surprise the consumer with something funny, sad, etc.

Fundamentally, advertising boils down to two elements: form and content.

1.) FORM: If you made a list of every advertising technique used throughout the ages, certain patterns would emerge. You could then theoretically apply those same techniques to your brand and come up with a list of effective advertising campaign ideas which would ‘statistically’ give you a higher guaranteed chance of success.

One agency actually created software that takes their briefs and ‘automatically generates’ advertising campaign ideas based on the different techniques. In the end it didn’t really work any better than a creative team did, but it was an interesting idea and a nice try. Perhaps the advertising industry will one day find itself out of business and be replaced by software as technology improves and we develop a deeper understanding of how the consumer mind operates.

[EDITORS NOTE: The book Creative Advertising by Mario Pricken takes a good stab at this by “unraveling the creative process behind some of the most effective campaigns of recent years.”]

2.) CONTENT: The content refers to the experiences, observations, and insights that you apply to the form. Having content involves constantly exposing yourself to new and fresh things in the world. The content you have in your head will only be as new and fresh and powerful as the ideas and experiences you expose yourself to. Your content comes from both inside the world of advertising, but more importantly outside of the world of advertising.

So to summarize, first learn all the techniques (the form), then play with the ideas (the content).

In 50 years cheese brands will probably still be advertising to consumers using very similar techniques like those used today (the form), what will change will be the ideas behind the campaigns as well as the presentation (the content).

How do you find the content that you use to apply it to the form? It depends on your references, and your frame of reference has to be diverse. Be like a sponge. Talk to everybody, exposure yourself to everything as varied and diverse as you can.

[EDITORS NOTE: Refer to The 22 Immutable Laws of Advertising by Michael Newman for more on expanding your experience.]

You must do this because consumers have to be able to recognize themselves in your advertising. If you only draw inspiration and references from a small niche of life, you may be able to attract that particular niche of people, but you’ll be missing out, and even alienating, everyone else.  So create advertising that everyone can see themselves in and relate to; even if your product is for a niche market. This is how advertising campaigns go viral.  Think about it. How often have you shared advertising for products you have never bought, but appreciated the idea behind the ad that you had to share it with your friends?

Where do you go for inspiration and idea brainstorming? I’m predominantly offline. But creativity is an everyday job. You can’t think in terms of “I’m going to take this idea from an exposition I saw and use it for my next advertising campaign.”  Personally, I keep particularly striking ideas in an organized folder near my desk. I may not use it now, but I know it will be a source of inspiration somewhere down the line.

I want to do your job, any advice? Have side projects. On my professional website I keep a folder of illustrations I make just for fun.

Also, don’t go directly to advertising school. Instead, consider going to art school, do internships with agencies, and then move abroad to get different perspectives. Go to London and to Asia – that will make you a killer in the industry when you come back.

What are some of your favorite advertising campaigns?

I have a small advertising budget, any advice? It depends on what you want to do. Find and pitch to freelancers individually.

For example, I was contacted through my website by a small business with a relatively small budget wanting a video. I did the illustration and contacted a friend of mine with a good camera did the filming, and yet another friend of mine in production who did the cutting and editing. In about two weeks, we combined our areas of specialty to create a high-quality video for the small business.

In the end, we delivered an agency-quality advertising video with illustration, music, good editing, and with several formats: 20 second films, 10 second teaser films, and 30 second longer films etc. ready to be delivered to the television channel they wanted to advertise on.

On a small budget, I think it’s better to go with freelancers – you’ll get a better deal and the end the product will be more or less the same.

How can I identify a good freelancer among a sea of bad and mediocre freelancers? First, learn to tell the difference between good and bad advertising ideas. Once you can spot the difference, look at the freelancer’s portfolio. Don’t just look at whether their work is ‘good,’ look at the idea behind the ads in their portfolio. If the ideas aren’t good for the selection of projects he specifically chose to show you, then you can assume that the idea he’ll choose for your project will be just as bad.

Secondly you can’t necessarily rely on the prizes and awards the freelancer may have been a part of. This is because freelancers cannot enter their ads into award competitions – only agencies can. This means that if the freelancer has been freelance for several years, an award he or she may have won several years prior only reflects the quality of that freelancer’s work back then while he or she was working with a team of other qualified professionals at an award-winning advertising agency. That particular freelancer may have been the weakest link in the agency, which is why he or she no longer works at the agency… It’s something to think about.

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