IAA Global Conference. 17 October. Bucharest JACQUES SÉGUÉLA - IAA


FOUNDER OF RSCG "Le monstre sacré de la pub française"

Find out what engines have to do with technology and creativity in Jacques Séguéla’s opinion, and what do both give birth to.


Innovation and Creativity – what are the similarities and the differentiating points between the two?

I do not like this « sectorization » (division), its too restrictive. But if I must be specific, I would say that innovation is the engine of technology, while creativity is the engine of arts and letters, and therefore of advertising. But innovation and creativity are twin sisters. One marrying each other in common law to give birth to inventiveness.

How can creativity change the world for the better?

Before changing it, creativity created the world. Whoever the author of the quote is, we can only say ”chapeau bas”. The world is constantly reinventing itself, sometimes under the influence of wisdom, sometimes under the influence of human craziness. We live in an era of historic peaks of this permanent brilliance. Digital revolution is making us live this way.

Business is business, but advertising remains more than ever in this new era of « me-tech-master-of-the-world », the craft of ideas before that of money. No offense to people of finance, money has no idea, only ideas make money. Thus the chorus of the moment sings : « the new media is the data » False! The new media is the idea. Data without an idea is like a pistol without a cartridge, a vulgar scarecrow, you press the trigger and nothing happens.

The more the digital connection progresses, the more tasks for the creatives. They will be indispensable to the success of a technology which, without them, will have no soul. They will be the guardians of a new world that forgets its roots. They will fight to put man back to the center of communication and humanism at the heart of the brands. Our job is to give blood and meaning to their DNA. As bodyguards, we will protect them from the daily attacks of their competitors. As guards of the heart, we will protect them from the dilution of tsunamis that are lying in wait for them in this torrent of overinformation aimed to drown them.

Do not fall into the tech trap, it amputates our emotions. What would become to life without emotions ? My favorite spot is signed Lacoste : we see a couple in a cafe. He loves her, he has not yet pronounced it, she is as beautiful as the day, he is as beautiful as the night. Suddenly, he approaches, haking her hand. Allegory takes over, we discover him plunging from the top of a building into the void. We expect the worst when suddenly, in his passionate love, the hand of the young woman touches his hand. Back to the reality of the bar, their two hands are joined, they hug each other. Signature : Life is a beautiful sport. I pity all those who do not vibrate at these sixty seconds of eternity. They do not know the great love and they will never know it.

If you were to define innovation in maximum of 10 words, what would be your definition?

To be where it is needed when it should not and where it should not when it should. If I summarize in one word : Disruption.

How do you foster creativity and innovation within your organization?

I had the infinite happiness of knowing Bill Bernbach, our Buffallo Bill. During our last meeting (he would leave the company a few weeks later) I asked him the same question. I made of his answer my professional life rule: ”Make the creative spirit prevail in the agency.” From then on, it is no longer a profession, but a mission plus a strategy, a philosophy of life. All means are good, the only thing that counts is the passion. Passion transforms fear into courage, immobility into progress, pessimism into optimism. The optimists invented the plane, the pessimists the parachute.

What do you mean by “dataism”, or the dictatorship of data? How do we avoid it?

The dataism, as well as the nazism and communism, could devastate the world if we do not fight it fiercely. The subject is not the abolishment of GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon), can we live without them? The subject is to limit their arrogance, their desire, their omnipotence. Together, the 4 of them make-up for 1 and a half the GDP of France, in 10, 20 years it will be that of Europe or America, in 30 years that of the world. How to tolerate that a digital state becomes the largest, the richest, the most informed on the planet, with all our personal data to better format us. If the world digitizes too much, we become a simple number. Referral error ! The other is not a data, it is a being of flesh and blood.

Technology makes the world evolve with giant steps, how not to love it, but it can also destroy us if we do not know how to preserve it. It is up to us to set the limits. I discovered the advertising in its happy days, before the television, before the computer, before the mobile, before the Internet. The Internet generation is born with headphones instead of ears, cameras instead of eyes, microphones instead of mouth, clicks instead of fingers. It is an infinite chance, but we shouldn’t forget the past, it is what made us who we are. Rather than an all tech world, I advocate a world of the roots of the future. This is the case of Havas created by Charles Havas, the inventor of our communication professions 183 years ago and led today by the youngest of the great bosses of our profession, Yannick Bollore (39 years old).

In an interview for Campaign India you cautioned the world of advertising regarding the use of technology, saying that “as we go digital, we must take care not to become numbers, losing the essence of humanity” and that you lived in the “good old days of advertising”. Can you elaborate on this idea?

Our job will be divided into 2 sides, followers of the sect of rampant technology and those of persistent creativity. I chose mine. Inventiveness, novelty, generosity are essential to the balance of the world and therefore the balance of the brands. I do not see much in Artificial Intelligence. In technology, disruption means a breakdown, in creativity disruption is an idea.

McCann Japan believed to innovate 10 years ago by replacing one of its Creative Directors with Al algorithms. We are still waiting for his first Lion in Cannes. Creativity means to the brands what oxygen means to men, their vitality. Tech without creativity means only the death of humanism. Tech without ideas is just the death of advertising. Without creativity the world would not be more than a planet “Hello, Mom” Robot. Can we dream of a better job than ours ? Confucius advocated « If you do not want to work for your entire life, choose a job you love. »

The more you like the advertising, the more you will love the profession; the more you will serve it, the more it will serve you; the more you will glorify it, the more it will glorify you. Only one rule remains unchangeable. Have ideas or change the job.

In your 55 years in the industry of advertising you must have witnessed a great number of important and exciting events. Could you mention one memorable moment (campaign, advert etc.)?

I had the good fortune to be invited to the White House by Ronald Reagan, a few days before he left office. I dared to ask him: ”Mr. President, which was the best day of your life in this House?”

His answer was: ”The best day of my life is tomorrow. ”My answer will be similar: for me the most beautiful campaign is the one that will be born tomorrow. I only have nostalgia for the future.