- Julien, you are French but are working on one of the most international accounts at BBDO. Can you briefly tell us about your background and describe your current position?
I’m basically a very old Intern with a fancy title; meaning I started in BBDO as an intern a few years back and never left. Maybe because I was too scared to leave, but probably because I fell in love with the people in CLM & BBDO’s Network, and most likely because BBDO always offered me the next challenge before I even knew I needed it. And working on international accounts was one of those challenges. It started simply because « I spoke decent English » and turned into being part of leading one of the biggest and most amazing accounts in the World with some really great client partners and agency people. I’ve been spending most of the last 15 years in planes between CLM and BBDO WW ; having the luxury of being the MD & VP of CLM while also having a blast with a team spread across the world working on Mars’ global Food business, Wrigley gum and now the Chocolate portfolio too. None of that was a plan it just happened. I guess I got a little lucky, and managed to build a few friendships on the way.
- The recent Cannes Lions and other industry awards have confirmed the rise of brand purpose and the move by brands into ethical and cause-related communications. How has this trend impacted Mars’ communications?
I don’t think this is a new trend at all. Yes, we have seen purpose rising, year on year for at least a decade. Mars has always been a truly value driven business, and therefore has always done a lot for the community within Mars and way beyond. I find purpose an interesting thing, businesses around the world have more societal responsibilities than ever, and when purpose is done genuinely the community benefits from it ; but the fact that it’s becoming ‘a trend in Cannes’ as you rightly point out, should get us slightly worried that some of it might not be truly authentic. Fortunately that has never been the case on Mars. Mars purpose is « the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today », so our approach is about taking action now. Mars launched the Pedigree Adoption Program more than 10 years ago. We launched Ben’s Beginners 8 years ago, there’s the recent Maltesers Paralympics work in the UK, the 5 Gum ‘No Regrets’ campaign and the Lion’s Share Fund which won the GP in the Sustainable Development Goals category this year, just to name a few of these programs.
- What is the non-French project you are most proud of having worked on?
I’m very bad at choosing because I’m proud of everything I’ve worked on ; Ben’s Beginners, Give Extra Get Extra, 5 Gum ‘No Regrets’ or working on Snickers right now, are all pretty exciting, and I’m sure the next thing will keep me going. But Frankly the thing I’m the proudest about is the team I work with around the world, no matter what project you work on; if you don’t like and respect the people you bring it to life with; its never enough: This global family is something I’m incredibly proud of.
- What is the French campaign you are most proud of having worked on?
I could give the same answer here and it would be true too. The people in CLM are ultimately what made me want to stay over the years. But the one project I’ll go back to, was one of the first ones, when as a young account in BBDO Corporate I was the little hand helping the launch of « Ni Putes Ni Soumises ». We simply did a bit of design, an incredible photo with Kate Barry & the women of the collective, but I remember feeling we were doing something that mattered, that helped so I am pretty proud of that too.
- How does your French culture help, inspire or limit you when you are working on international campaigns?
Being “le Français” in the room, I can get away with a little more swearing and straightforwardness, (and cologne) than most. People give me a pass because “I am soooo French” but in a global role, coming from a “small” country helps. Especially one like France that everyone loves to hate. But secretly everyone loves a little something French, especially since we are not pretending (anymore) that we are dominating the world. We are just the ones with perfect taste, charm and elegance. Who doesn’t like that? Haha. Having a bit of humor and self awareness helps too.
- What typically French working characteristic have you been obliged to leave behind when working with the global team, and why?
Listening before talking can be useful. But there is nothing a 5 hour meeting lunch can’t solve.