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Olivier Massanella, Account Manager for DDB in Paris France

Account Manager for DDB, Olivier Massanella has +6 years experience working with brands to identify the intersection between the brand’s core truth and the brand’s market environment.

How does your job fit into the advertising process? As an account manager, I manage and advise our client’s communication strategies, specifically as it pertains to the advertising industry: print, billboard, television, radio, and digital.

I work with a team of professionals to interpret and analyze the client’s demands and needs and then work with them to determine the best way to reach their objectives and engage their target consumer. But the more agency-side people that attend meetings, the more costly the campaign can become. Therefore I am the direct link between the advertising agency and the client, which allows our advertising-side people (Creatives, Strategic Planners and Producers…) to concentrate on the work where they will be most profitable and useful to our clients.

Can you give an example? L’Équipe is #1 in sports news coverage in France. They have a magazine, a newspaper, and L’Équipe 21: a free television channel.

While L’Équipe’s newspaper is famous and every Frenchman knows it or has heard of it, but their free television channel is different because they cover the less mainstream sports such as mountain biking, handball, volleyball…

so L’Équipe’s TV channel has the credibility of the L’Equipe brand name but doesn’t have the same content, which puts it into difficulty compared to ther other paid sports channels.

So I work with L’Équipe 21 to ensure consumers see the positive side of the channel: the fact that it shows less popular sports, not like all the other channels who only air the mainstream sports matches. The challenge for the channel is to show its wealth of programming and range of sports it offers its viewers.

Media-use has changed since the internet; consumers don’t use the newspaper as before.

Since 2009 L’Équipe’s premium newspaper publishings per day have fallen by nearly 100,000 while L’Équipe.fr is the most popular website in France with nearly 5.3 million visits per month. L’Équipe

21 has perhaps 1-200,000 viewers per day. I work with L’Équipe to increase consumer use of their free content and increase conversion of their paid content.

What questions do you ask new clients to understand their communication strategy? First I start with the basics, at DDB we believe that “The truth is in your product;” in your unique selling proposition (USP) or benefit.

Most brands have already identified their USP and product truth, or at least have an idea of what they think it could be. If as an entrepreneur you don’t even know what you think your USP is, you’re in trouble.

Secondly, we believe in identifying insights into what people do and think. Therefore the first thing I do is find the intersection between the truth about your product and the truth about your market. At this intersection there usually lies a problem the brand wants to solve. This problem could be anything from:

  • Image – your brand has a bad reputation in the consumer’s eyes
  • Notoriety – your brand isn’t well known to your consumer demographic
  • Product weakness – your brand is seen as inferior or not worth owning
  • Competitive weakness – your brand is operating at a disadvantage compared to your competitors

Do you distinguish between brand truth and product truth? Yes. Brand truth is your brand’s history and identity, while your product truth is a part of your brand. When I first sit down with a brand I need to identify whether the brand is trying to solve a brand truth or a product truth problem. It isn’t until we evaluate the brand’s market and find that intersection that we know where the problem lies and what needs to be done. Most of the time, this process requires the expertise of strategic planners.

Once you’ve identified the problem at the intersection between the brand and the market, what techniques do you use to solve it? If the problem is a product truth to the market fit: then the problem is likely that your target consumer isn’t aware you exist or aren’t aware of why your product would be beneficial to them. That being the problem, we would work on a campaign to educate the target consumer and showcase the benefit of your product.


Volkswagen’s “It’s ugly but it gets you there” advertisement was an excellent way of humorously acknowledging the truth about their product’s design that everyone thought while pointing to the brand’s promise of reliability.

If the problem is a brand truth to the market fit: then the problem is likely the target consumer isn’t aware of the brand history, meaning, signification, that the brand isn’t liked, is hated, or has bad publicity or press, etc. Then you have to work on the brand image to change public perception.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in Art Director Julien Herrison’s interview that 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 brand’s:

  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.]

For example, the commercial real estate market often has a bad perception because the agents selling the real-estate often have low diplomas or lack formal training, and earn their living taking you around to visit homes and taking a commission from each sale.

So a real-estate agent’s objective could address this perception by showing that their real-estate agents are highly trained professionals who work hard and do the dirty work to reassure that home buyers are getting the best deal possible at the best price. But the problem is both a brand and a market perception because on the market side the problem is that the real estate industry is unique because buyers don’t usually choose the agent, but rather they choose the house and then deal with whichever agent happens to be in charge of selling that house.

For another example, in 2011 a man died from food poisoning after eating at a Quick restaurant in France. Despite all their advertising and communications efforts to address the negative hygiene problem, consumers don’t seem to be convinced; which adds to one of the reasons why the Quick brand is dying. You cannot come back from something like that, and as a result is currently in talks with Burger King to sell its 509 restaurants.

What are a few misconceptions brands commonly have about advertising?One common question is that professional agencies are too expensive. Agencies are professional because of their ability to consistently identify and solve problems. This means that operating costs for agencies are heavy to cover the materials, the research, the expertise… but you get what you pay for.

Anyone can get lucky once or twice; professionals consistently and successfully solve clients problems.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on how to qualify freelancers and professionals, refer to the book How to Shape Human Behavior (2nd Edition).]

Another concern is time: “Why does it take so long?” In short, because agencies have processes in place to ensure that our answer to your brand’s problem and objectives is comprehensive and correctly identifies the correct problem, and that the solution we propose meets your objective(s).

A third misconception is that advertisements should be all inclusive: contain the price, legal disclaimers, exhaustive product details, and every unique selling proposition crammed into one advert complete with large font, a big logo, and pack shots (photos of the product itself), etc..

But forcing all of that into one ad isn’t getting your money’s worth; in fact, quite the opposite occurs:

The more you put into an advertisement, the less the target consumer notices it and takes away from your advertising that one important message you want to communicate. One ad, one message. No more.

What are a few campaigns you have worked on?


The newest L’Équipe launching announcing it’s new smaller size. Readers have loved the original version because of it’s unconventionally large size. So the strategy for making the publication smaller we needed to reassure consumers that even though the new

L’Équipe will be smaller, it is still as large as before. So we showed how despite its new size it’s still the biggest sports newspaper in France.

The above advertisement was for Honda’s The Centaur. What was crazy about this project was that Honda had it’s custom message and logo etched into the sand at the starting line of one of the races. The helicopter covering the race filmed the start of the race as 1,200 racers rode over the message. Altogether, Honda’s message was viewed by over 10 million people watching the race live, on television, in the news and on blogs. This campaign won a Silver Lion in the film category in 2013.

I have a small advertising budget, any advice? Do a stunt that will get news, and invite journalists and bloggers. On a limited budget, you need to concentrate your time and money and message to reach one key target consumer with one idea. Be shocking. Not just with sex or violence, shocking regarding common beliefs with your market and competitors and consumers. What would your consumers find shocking? Do that. Shock them.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In our interview, Sr Vice President of Campaigns Dan Mathews agrees that shock and provocation are useful techniques, and agrees not simply shock and provocation for the sake of shock and provocation; strategic shock and provocation. Do something that goes against the social norms of your target audience or your market and that will touch the heart of your target audience and shake things up.]

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