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Sid Lee: Montreal Ambassadors

Posted on March 27, 2011 and read 5,145 times

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brettcreditpic Sid Lee: Montreal AmbassadorsBrett McKenzie
Chief Writer, SBN2

One of the cool things about ihaveanidea being headquartered in Old Montreal, besides the beautiful European architecture, the fantastic eats and the fashionable locals, is the fact that we are in the same neighbourhood as one of the hottest advertising agencies in the city.

Sid Lee has long been a powerhouse on the Montreal scene, but in recent years they’ve been steadily expanding their sphere of influence. They’ve opened up offices in Amsterdam, Paris and Toronto, and winning business along the way. Last year they landed their biggest win with adidas, becoming the iconic brand’s global agency of record. Just two weeks ago, they launched their global campaign for the brand and won another new piece of business, Dell Inc.

We caught up with Sid Lee’s Chief Creative Officer Philippe Meunier last Friday, the morning after an epic party to celebrate the adidas and Dell news. Philippe tells us about what it’s been like working on adidas, the upcoming Boot Camp, as well as what the agency’s success has meant for the city.

philm Sid Lee: Montreal Ambassadors

Philippe Meunier, the morning after.

ihaveanidea: You just launched your first global cross-platform campaign for adidas since stunning the world by winning the account. Talk to us about the journey.

Phil: Yeah, it’s been a year since we started working towards the adidas pitch and eventually becoming the AOR. The work that we pitched with was pretty much what we launched the other day, so really it’s been a year-long journey to get where we are today. There have been months and months of production, scheduling nightmares and enormous pressure to make sure everything was based on the one, solid idea. All of that takes a lot of stamina!

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We all celebrated last night, and it was wonderful to see all of that work pay off. I was in New York earlier this week, and just the feeling of seeing the work we did in little Montreal all over the Big Apple, man, it was epic.

That said, life goes on. There is still lots of work to be done with all of our clients, and lots of pitches to think about and attend to.

ihaveanidea: Well one fewer pitch now. You guys just won a sizable chunk of the Dell account.

Phil: Yes, that was another reason to celebrate last night! We had received a call about six months ago to see if we’d be interested in working on the account. A few months later, here we are, down it Austin, Texas, pitching one of the biggest accounts around! They are wonderful people, and we are pleased to announce that with this win we will be opening an office in Austin.

ihaveanidea: Another office? You guys have been on a roll…

Phil: It’s been incredible. The office in Amsterdam is growing, the Paris office is growing, the office we opened in Toronto last November is already up to about 40 people. It’s been crazy.

ihaveanidea: Would you say that all of this success has been not just a victory for Sid Lee, but for the city of Montreal?

Phil: It’s definitely a win for Montreal. With each piece of new business, I feel we aren’t just opening up the world to Sid Lee, we are introducing the world to the culture and creative potential of Montreal. And we are proud to do that, to share our love for the city so that others can get on board, be they clients looking towards Montreal, or Montreal agencies looking outside of Quebec.

ihaveanidea: So your success will have a ripple effect on the industry in the city.

Phil: Exactly. Many years ago, some Quebec agencies decided to say “hey, we are a different market, so we have to create work for our own market.” And so they kind of built a wall around Quebec culture to protect their interests, to protect their ‘different’ market. But years later, those same walls that have protected Quebec are now killing us. We can’t see what’s happening on the other side of the wall. And the reality is that today, there are no walls, no boundaries for brands. It’s an international playground, and we at Sid Lee have gone over the wall to play in it. We believe that it’s time for other Montreal agencies and Quebec agencies to do the same, and after our success, we hope they will.

ihaveanidea: Now that you have all these big global brands, I’m sure it’s easier to attract talent to Montreal.

Phil: It’s easier, but at the same time it’s still a challenge. When I go to different cities and talk to creatives, everybody loves Sid Lee, and they are intrigued by Montreal, but everyone’s afraid of the goddamned winters! (laughs) But once people get past the reality of a Montreal winter, they love it. I was speaking with some of the adidas team last night, ones that were VCU Brandcenter grads. They said “you know, a year ago you were trying your best to convince us to come to Montreal, and now we are so happy to be here, in a city with so much culture, so many things to do, so many nice people.” So yeah, it’s cold in the winter, but let’s not let that interfere with doing creative work that makes a difference.

ihaveanidea: I guess that’s a perfect way to segue into your Sid Lee Boot Camp project.

Phil: (laughs) Boot Camp is my little labour of love. A few years ago, at a partners meeting, I suggested that Sid Lee should think about having our own school of some sort. Over time, that concept evolved into the Sid Lee Boot Camp.

poster sidlee bootcamp21f9 Sid Lee: Montreal Ambassadors

Boot Camp will take place here in Montreal over ten, super intense days in early June. We are looking for eight highly creative people from all over the world, copywriters, art directors, designers, architects and so on, and they’ll be flown here to Montreal at our expense. This team of eight will live in tents and work on a project involving Fatboy, one of our Amsterdam clients. The project is to imagine the next ten years of the Fatboy brand, and the entire output of the Boot Camp is going to be shown as an exhibit.

This is the first Boot Camp, but I am already planning others throughout the year. It is going to be a new way for us to test new talent, to challenge the creative vision of some great brands, and to have a fun time while we’re at it.

We are also thinking of bringing the Boot Camp to different festivals, so instead of giving a presentation at Cannes or SXSW about Sid Lee, we can actually have people actively learning about the Sid Lee way of doing things.

Maybe all of this will evolve into a fulltime school. Maybe it will expand to go beyond advertising creatives and include the general public, or even kids, or corporate executives. The possibilities are endless, and they begin with this first one, so if you haven’t submitted your portfolio for Boot Camp, do so before March 31st!

ihaveanidea: How many people have applied so far?

Phil: We’ve had about 300 applicants so far, and it’s sad that we can only pick eight people. But having so many kickass portfolios to look at, that’s a good problem to have!




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