Nicolas Lautier, Creative Director at BETC Paris, reveals how to go beyond the brief and discover a great idea. Turns out that you really can get inspired by almost anything.
Tell us about your background.
I spent three years at FRED & FARID, where I learned the fundamentals of advertising: how to write a script, how to tell a story, and how to find a creative concept. It was when clients were just starting to get into digital, so it was the perfect time for me to work on different types of media.
After that, I spent seven years at Ogilvy & Mather Paris, under the creative leadership of [then Chief Creative Officer] Chris Garbutt. Over there, I learned the culture of craft, the culture of digital and product design.
I feel like my first two experiences really complement each other. And I have been at BETC Paris since October 2016.
What unique opportunities encouraged you to join BETC Paris?
Just as when every creative switches agencies, I felt like I needed a new adventure. And based on my previous experiences, BETC was the right agency to apply what I had learned. What attracted me here was the possibility of working on larger accounts and big brands with a strong creative DNA.
How do you inspire creativity in your team?
The biggest lesson I try to teach the creatives I work with is to always read between the lines of the brief. They have to look for the creative opportunities and not just do what the client wants. Clients sometimes lack the perspective to be able to appreciate a great idea, so we have to bring them fresh, modern, and creative executions.
I always tell people to look into a brief for its potential. I always tell them that everything is possible.
Here, at BETC, we are fortunate to have in-house production facilities; we can even do some product design if needed. And the way that technology enables us to find new ideas, I believe anything can become an advertising campaign.
How do you inspire yourself?
My advertising inspiration: I find it by doing daily research on advertising sites and blogs. I look at what is being done, and I analyze what is good—and I try to understand why it is good and what is the creative concept behind the work.
My personal inspiration: I don’t find it by looking at advertising. I am interested in all kinds of projects. There can be projects about architecture, about typography, or about technology. Because anything can lead to an advertising idea.
You shouldn’t browse only advertising sites. Because they will show you things that have already been done. Of course, you need to know what has been done, but you should always try to bring something new.
Which characteristics make up a successful creative director?
If there were a perfect answer to this question, every single creative director would be incredibly successful. However, I believe that in order to be a good creative director, you need to:
Be humane, and learn how to manage your team. Be patient, because it takes some time to educate a client. Be intelligent in your reading of the brief to avoid spending your energy fighting unnecessary battles. And, most important, surround yourself with the best talent.
What makes a campaign effective?
An effective campaign has two things: a strong creative idea and excellent craft.
For me, the ultimate praise is when your work is lauded by your peers and by consumers at the same time. It’s when you can talk about your work to your friends from advertising as well as to your grandparents.
What’s the most creative campaign that you’ve crafted to date?
“On the Docks” for haute couture and fragrance designer Jean-Paul Gaultier. That was a film that people from advertising appreciated, and also regular people outside the industry.
I also feel this campaign managed to blow up the conventions of fragrance and luxury, which can be a bit too pretentious at times. I like that we were able to tell a story in the spot. I am also proud of the craft, which we owe to the director, Johnny Green.
Also, “Hands,” an outdoor for Coca-Cola. The visuals of the campaign were shot by famed photographer David LaChapelle. This work can look like the kind of work done by creatives just for creatives, but actually, it is a campaign that turned out to be very popular among those outside the industry. A lot of people use it on their computers as wallpaper.
Tell us about some of the most recent work that your team is proud of.
“Backstage” for sporting goods retailer Decathlon is a great piece of work.
The format of the film helped us encapsulate the idea of a well-conceived product. We wanted a film that gives you the sensation of the quantity of process behind the product. Something that makes you think: “Oh, OK. I wasn’t expecting so much work behind this low price.”
We could have told this story in a longer format but we wanted to create this accumulation of scenes as if all the work that has been done by Decathlon can’t even fit in 30 seconds. There’s a rush before the calm arrives: the packshot of the product that hides everything. You won’t believe what’s behind our low prices.
What’s the biggest tech trend making an impact on the advertising industry?
I don’t believe that a particular technology can make for a trend. The future is not about 3D printers or virtual reality. It is a whole. We need to tell ourselves that tech moves so fast. That opens up new avenues of creation for us.
We used to have a limited field. Now, possibilities are endless. We can find new ideas everywhere. So, more than one tech or the other, it is the impact of technology that is important. That being said, I am looking forward to what we will be able to do in the field of augmented reality.
What’s the best advice you have for a young professional in his or her 20s or 30s?
First: Be the first light on in the morning and the last light on in the evening. There is no secret—you have to put in the work to succeed. It is not at school where you will learn how to make ads.
Second: Do your research. Look at the work that is being made and understand why what is good is good and why what is bad is bad.
Third: Don’t be in a rush. Creatives really need to learn the job step-by-step. You can’t have the ambition of becoming a creative director if you don’t master the fundamentals. Know how to write a script by finding an insight, developing a creative concept, writing a tagline. When you can do that, everything becomes easier afterward.