66. Julien Chesné on When Good Visuals Meet Bad Ideas & Why Consumers Don’t Have Misconceptions

Art Director for JWT, Julien Chesné has +8 years experience working with brands to build powerful advertising campaigns.

How do you know when you have a winning idea? Everybody can be creative. But the hardest part of being creative is keeping your idea alive and developing it as it makes its way through the creative process of becoming a final advertising campaign. This requires experience; experience and bouncing your ideas off as many experienced creatives as you can get your hands on.

If you tell your idea to an experienced creative or two whom you trust and they wince, then be willing to question your idea and work on it some more.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In our interview, Rémi Noel, Creative Director notes that you mustn’t think that “your point of view is the only point of view. Your idea is your baby, not everyone else’s baby. Listen to other people and be humble – understand their point of view. Sometimes you have to calm down and understand that it takes time for other people to get as excited about your product as you are.”

Also, in his book Hegarty on Creativity, Sir John Hegarty states that “It can be easy to settle on something that feels right. Something that seems to make sense of all the confusion. You’ll feel relief when you get to this point. You’ll think you’ve cracked it. You’ll feel good. But then you have to take a step back from what feels really good and ask: But is it great?”

What are the typical components of a creative brief?

  • Main information about the brand and product
  • A strong insight that is unique to the brand or product – an understood truth about the brand or product that target consumers already have in their mind when they think about the product – the connection between the brand and the target consumer. This is the most important ingredient of your creative brief. The button the advertising campaign will press with the consumer.
  • The target consumer demographic
  • Type of media
  • The budget
  • Competitors
  • Time constraints

What are some campaigns you have worked on? Toyota, Reporters Without Borders, Bouygues, Total, BMW, Nestlé

Ads are either predominantly visual or prominently text, how you decide which should take the lead? It really isn’t a choice. The advertising idea you choose dictates which avenue you take.

How do you choose a visual? Above all, everything you decide to put into your advertising must protect the idea. It often happens that good advertising ideas can come with a bad visual which kills the idea. The perfect ad has a great idea, a great visual and great photo.

Bad ideas cannot be saved with a good visual, but sometimes this mistake can be made.

What are a few of your favorite advertising campaigns? 

What are some misconceptions brands commonly have about advertising? That the more you show your product, the more people will want your product.  Yes, Apple advertisements are known for only showing a photo of their phone, but with the iPhone you really just have to show the screen and it’s an advertisement because the product is so good and unique and all of the ideas are on the product that they don’t have to come up with additional ideas for their advertising. Building your key insight and idea into your product so that the product becomes its own advertising would be your dream goal. But if you cannot do this, then you must put the idea into your advertising.

What are some misconceptions consumers commonly have about advertising? Advertising is made for consumers; therefore I would say that consumers do not have misconceptions. If consumers think an ad is bad, is deceptive, or is doing more harm than good, they are right.

So I would say that consumers don’t have misconceptions, they have opinions based on experiences and prejudgments, and it is up to the brand to either conform to those preconceived opinions or work to change them.

I agree with Eric Auvinet that there can be a great competitive advantage for brands using ‘real’ people in their advertising rather than paying professional models to pose in their advertising for consumers to compare themselves to and to aspire to.

Jealousy is a natural human emotion, but consumers today seem to be getting fed up with being compared to ‘perfection’ and are more receptive to accepting who you are.

I want to do your job, any advice? Advertising is like running in a marathon at a sprinting pace. You truly have to be strong and love advertising. It is getting more and more difficult to find happiness when you work in advertising. Every day you must fight against yourself. Deadlines are becoming shorter and shorter. Demands are becoming more and more. You have to consistently come up with better and better and newer and newer ideas. You also have to advise clients because brands have so many options and directions that they can take that they’re always second guessing their decisions.

I have a small advertising budget, any advice? Know your target consumer demographic as intimately as possible. This is the starting point for everything.

62. Eric Auvinet on Visual vs Text-based Ads, The ‘Perfect’ Woman & Consumer Testing

Copywriter for JWT, Eric Auvinet has +15 years experience mastermining the ideas and copy behind advertising campaigns.

What’s your creative process for coming up with an idea from the brief? The first thing I do is to find a nice quiet place to compare ideas. Many agencies have a ‘creative room’ specifically reserved for idea generation. When Julien Chesné and I worked at Saatchi & Saatchi they had a glass room on the top floor of their building that overlooked all of Paris. It’s really a beautiful view and a great place to come up with ideas.

A good starting point for me is to begin by recounting memories, stories and associations – related or unrelated – from my past that pop into my mind as I’m thinking about the product.  And then brick by brick my art director and I construct a framework on potential campaign ideas. During this brainstorming time expect to jump quickly from idea to idea, so it’s imperative you jot down notes so you can remember your ideas. Doing so allows you to:

– Reconstruct your idea’s logic in case the client or your creative director asks you where you got the idea from
– Helps you keep track of your good ideas so they aren’t forgotten during the brainstorming.
– Allows you to step away from them and then look at them again in the future with fresh eyes and new information and experiences.

How much time do you have to come up with ideas for the client? When I first began in advertising we would have upwards of a week. Nowadays clients typically give us 2-3 days.

Why do you think that is? Many factors, I believe… because of the process, time, increasing competition, technological developments, and profitability of the agency… At any given time art directors and copywriters may be working at various stages on multiple creative briefs.

What are some campaigns you have worked on? Toyota, Reporters Without Borders, Universal, Bouygues, Yoplait, Opel,  BMW, Nestlé

Ads are either prominently visual or prominently text, how you decide which should take the lead? You shouldn’t necessarily go into the idea creation campaign having already made this decision. Doing so would only limit the amount of ideas you come up with. That being said, experience has shown me that visual advertisements are more effective than text-based ads.  Simply put, visuals evoke stronger emotional reactions more quickly and register are remain longer in the consumer’s brain than printed text.

So being a copywriter in a prominently visual media, what is a copywriter’s responsibility? To clarify, the term ’copywriter’ in and of itself is officially defined as “a writer of copy,especially for advertisements or publicity releases.” But in the art director/copywriter team role, a ‘copywriter’ is much broader than that: in this sense a better definition would be “concepteur/redacteur” (loosely translated from French as: Designer/Editor). In this team setting, the principle is: Idea first, then format.

That being said, I work with my art director to find the right campaign idea be it a scenario, picture, sentence or copy (text), and secondly we come up with the best way to combine those ideas. You cannot have a visual without text to add sense to the photo and relate it to the brand or product being advertised.

What are some misconceptions brands commonly have about advertising? Some brands can believe that the agency doesn’t care about the brand and are only doing what the agency wants to do or to win awards. So agencies must be comprehensive and thorough in their creative process so the brand understands the reasoning behind the advertising. I would not show the brand the notes I took during the initial brainstorming process, but explaining to them how we came up with the idea lets the brand know that we in fact do care.

A second misconception could be for brands to find a balance between ideal and real. Society places greater value on the ‘perfect’ male or female form. This is why there are modeling agencies that create a collection of the ‘model’ human for consumers to compare themselves to and to aspire to. It is for this reason that brands prominently use models in their advertisements, that the sun is always shining in their advertisements, and that even the most beautiful landscapes are further photo shopped to look unbelievable.

Fashion brands use models because they want to inspire their consumers to be better, and more down-to-earth brands such as Dove use everyday people to accentuate the message that it’s okay to be who you are.  There really can be a great branding advantage to using ‘real’ people in your advertising. This decision, I think, comes down to your branding strategy.


What trends have you noticed in advertising? Advertising budgets are getting smaller, more and more brands are depending on consumer testing before an advertisement is officially launched ‘just in case’ the advertisement isn’t well received. This is due in part because on the company side each person has their own responsibility, they want to be safe and prefer not to sign off on anything until they are absolutely sure that it will be successful.

The brand has undoubtedly put a lot of time and money into this one campaign, and understandably wants to be sure they are going to minimize risk and guarantee success, but this kind of thinking actually kills creativity.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Refer to Peter Spear’s informative interview on the benefits and consequences of consumer testing.]

What are a few of your favorite advertising campaigns?

I have a small advertising budget, any advice? First invest your time and money into building a product with at least one strong quality that you are proud of and are willing to stand behind. If you don’t believe in your product, how can you expect anybody else to? Once you have that, advertisers can do the job of creating the idea or key insight around your product’s strong quality that you can market to your consumers.

Also, once you have that product, be patient and cautious of the advertiser(s) you choose. Nobody is perfect and art directors might lead you down a wrong direction. Nobody is perfect.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Refer to Akim Zeraouli, Art Director for Y&R’s interview for excellent advice on how to tell good creatives from the bad.]

Secondly, know who you are. How can you tell others who you are and why they should buy your brand if you don’t know who you are?