Yahoo! Big Idea Chair: A feast of Fred & Farid

Fred Raillard and Farid Mokart settle into the Yahoo! Big Idea Chair to talk about creating the ultimate video strip-tease for Robbie Williams' Rock DJ track.

On beginnings

We started out as a planner and an account man at an agency called Euro RSCG BETC. We hated creative people there. They sounded so stupid it made the creative job look easy. So we decided to switch and become creative at TBWA\Paris. They hired us to do the "boring" job: body copy for banks and insurance houses, the stuff that the other teams didn't want to do. So we stole the keys of our creative director's office, and we stole all the good briefs at night. We wanted to challenge the good creative teams on the good projects. We quickly won most of the internal pitches, and became the most hated team in the agency, and on the French market.

On how we work

When we started out we did everything together (copywriting and art direction), probably because we felt insecure. People were suspicious; we had to prove to ourselves and to the market, more than any other teams. But today we can say that our constant insecurity offered our best chance to succeed. We were more open to change the rules and reinvent the job.

On cultural connections

At Marcel, we try to offer the best of three worlds: the British seriousness and sense of perfectionism, the American sense of business and winning spirit, and the passion and creativity of French people. We like to call it "the head, the belly and the heart". We also hired as many foreigners as we could. We're about 100 people now, and we have 26 nationalities on board so far. We believe in mixing cultures. In Paris, people call us the "Babel Republique", instead of "Marcel Republique".

On Paris and French advertising

Paris is the capital of art and creativity in all disciplines. Unfortunately, most French people dis- respect advertising. They find it vulgar. They don't admire the beauty or cleverness of an ad. It's almost considered shameful to work in advertising in Paris; it means you're a corrupted artist.

On Maurice Levy

To understand Levy, you have to know that he is a chess player - a real and very good, passionate chess player in his spare time. That's the key to his moves and decisions. At Marcel, we report directly to him, and he is the best "teacher" we could possibly have found to teach us about business so far. Maurice started in the Publicis IT department. A few years later, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet nominated him as president and, a few years later, Publicis Groupe became number four worldwide, and number two in media. That says a lot about the man.

On Robbie Williams

We were the worldwide creative directors on Pepsi at CLM/BBDO Paris, when Robbie was contracted to Pepsi. We produced a subversive spot suggesting that Robbie was singing on pre-recorded songs. Robbie loved it, and he asked us to think about an idea for his Rock DJ track. So we came up with the "ultimate strip-tease". It just sounded right to us to go too far with him. Robbie has no limit to his ambitions. He lives a life of excess and immoderation and that's why people love him. This video is just the metaphor of his approach. Making Rock DJ changed our career. It definitely changed perceptions of us. It opened the very closed door of the British market, and winning the USA MTV Award opened the door of the American market.

On our creative vision

What inspires us and turns us on is to put meaning into our work, a bigger thought than just the ad. For instance, "fire" was our criticism of ultra-liberalism, Xbox "Champagne" was an invitation to enjoy life, and Orange "open" is a philosophical parable about rebirth, freedom and discovery.

On our competition

The only reason why the brands don't directly brief Budgen, Glazer or Gondry is because they still believe that we have the skills to write short stories ... Well, we'd better be good! Our job is to write meaningful and impactful stories.

It's amazing to realise that the story of "piano man" (the autistic piano player found on a beach in the north of England) had more impact in the world than any other story in the news at that time. Imagine if the guy had revealed at the end that he was an actor paid by Mac to announce the launch of the new iPod ... It would have deserved a gold Pencil at D&AD. That shows the power of a good story, and unfortunately reveals how weak our advertising stories are sometimes.

On the internet

The internet is bigger than just a new medium. It's a whole new mentality sculpting the new generation. It's changing all our habits and ways of life. The French philosophers like to mention it as a revolution for humanity as big as the domestication of fire, or the invention of the wheel. But our industry is always following, so it will take time for agencies to really take advantage of it. In one year of Marcel, only one client (United Biscuits) asked us to work on it, to launch a chocolate biscuit for teenagers (, and the main reason was the very low budget.

On an internet campaign that excites us

Crispin Porter & Bogusky's work for Burger King in general. Most of its internet campaigns (Subservient Chicken, Doctor Angus ...) are brilliant and could only exist on the web. The creations are fully taking advantages of the possibilities of the web. That agency is more famous today for its internet than its TV campaigns.

On Bartle Bogle Hegarty

We would just like to say: "Thanks to Hegarty without whom advertising would only be what it is."

On our future

In a year, Marcel's won 17 accounts, including Orange, Coke and Opel Corsa. Marcel now bills 40 per cent of Publicis Conseil, the biggest agency in Paris. In the near future, we're going to keep on building this war machine. We'll do our best to make Marcel become the biggest, most powerful and most exciting place in Paris - and then we'll see.

On the big idea

It's always difficult to know if your idea is the big one. First, because the execution is definitely part of the idea, and second, because only the market and the viewers will decide at the end. Anyway, sometimes you have the great feeling of producing something that has never been shot before, and something bigger than advertising ... Something good on its own and, by the way, it's an ad. This is a very good sign.

On a big idea in advertising

The Independent. "Don't buy. Don't read."

On a big idea for the future in any field

The mutant Teddy BearBand manufactured by Moulin Roty and designed by Philippe Starck.

Since this interview, Fred and Farid have quit Publicis to start their own agency, with backing from Vincent Bollore. - The Yahoo! Big Idea Chair shines a spotlight on people and companies whose creative work is truly remarkable. See for more details.


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