Sid Lee, learning from the best
… One of the best agency in the world right now is Sid Lee in Montreal… at least to work for.
Besides the obvious cool office, restaurant (with a chef, you can download their recipes on their website) and bar…
(pics from the narrative space)
There are a number of things that make Sid Lee stand out from the crowd and should be looked at as an example, especially for UK advertising agencies and start-ups that could do with a bit more rock and roll in their attitude.
– For example, design is and has always been an integrale part of everything Sid Lee does. Designers are as important as creative, and they are put at the centre of everything the company does. They are not just there to make something pretty.
– They have their own concept called Commercial creativity. Which simply means applying their creativity to any commercial purposes. They have for example redesigned Boss stores and SAQ (the governemnet owned alcohol stores) in Quebec. And they look pretty amazing.
– They have done digital since 1999 and are one of the most acclaimed advertising agency in the digital workd in Canada.
– When we are still struggling with the last point in the UK, they are investigating potential opportunities to work with architect and industrial design companies, artists and music production. They are in the creativity business, not just the advertising business.
– PARTIES! Sid Lee parties are just simply the best in town. JF Bouchard is a massive party animal. He loves a party. Always first and last to leave it. I remember the bollywood theme party we had in 2000, where I about a thousand people showed up. Ha the good old days.
– Worklife. Sid Lee make a point of treating its employees with the utmost respect and is constantly voted as one of the best employers in Canada. On top of the parties, food, drinks… Sid Lee (at least used to) take all their employees for a ride once a year. Last time I was there we all went to Miami, the 100 of us. The year before it was NY. I don’t know if they are still doing it but it was solid fun.
– Sid Lee doesn’t say they are creative because they have a creative department. The whole agency is creative. You can really feel that when you work there and they encourage everyone to be more creative.
– On top of that, SID LEE encourages its 150 employees, or artisans as they call themselves, to maximize their own creative potential by proposing projects:
Through bursaries and other support, the company helps transform them into reality. “People can come to us with all kinds of projects [outside of their specialty] and we’ll give them a shot,” says Mr. Bouchard, a father of two who himself moonlights as a photographer.
This is what they did last year. I love the pillows…
And here’s what they are currently up to:
This is what JF Bouchard, the ‘chief of the direction to take’, is up to on his spare time. He went travelling the world as a photographer looking for secret societies.
The photographs of Jean-François Bouchard explore a new social phenomenon. In the past, tribes existed for the purpose of survival and grew out of geographical proximity; today, modern tribes are forming for radically different reasons.
The exhibit was presented at the prestigious Fonderie Darling gallery in Montreal in February, 2008, and attracted thousands of visitors. Pushing conventional boundaries with dim lighting and provocative images, the show created a truly immersive experience into the photographer’s unusual universe.
The most amazing thing of all is that Jean-Francois graduated as a lawyer and started Sid Lee without any experience in advertising.
In such a creative context, you would be forgiven for thinking strategy isn’t really important. And you’d be wrong. Bertrand Cesvet, strategy evangelist, has long been talking about Conversational Capital (check his blog) and is in the process of releasing a book about it.
But the work, I hear you say, what about the work?
I invite you to check by yourself. http://www.sidlee.com/
But Sid Lee has never been only about big shiny ads like we would judge an advertising agency over here. They are about big ideas, executed to perfection. Look at the adidas stores they have designed. Bliss. But they did manage to win quite a few awards along the way.
They have also been the advertising / digital agency of the Cirque Du Soleil since 2000. Now I’m telling you, you’ve got to be pretty cool to keep working for the most creative business in the world.
They recently produced the Adidas / Diesel campaign http://diesel.adidas.com/
So why is Sid Lee not more famous?
I think they sometimes have the French Canadian syndrom (I know they won’t like that), which is to be pretty humble and modest. But they are hugely successful in Canada and are slowly building an excellent reputation in the US of A.
All these things make Sid Lee one of the most exciting place to work for in the world. They have proven that you don’t need to sacrifice the ‘fun’ bit of advertising to be commercially successful and do great work.
And that working in advertising should be a pleasure first. Something most people seem to have forgotten.