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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > creatives > Slideshow « Dominique Trudeau
Dominique Trudeau

portrait dtrudeau Dominique TrudeauVice President, Creative Director

Here’s a short excerpt of a recently overheard conversation between Dominique and another Montreal creative director we shall refer to as “Creative Director A” for the benefit of this short exercise:

Creative Director A: You’re the interactive guy.
Dominique: Well yes, but I do everything now.
Creative Director A: Oh…

It is kind of true that Dominique holds the interactive championship belt in Montreal, what with him being a regular on some of the industry’s most prestigious award show juries, and perhaps most notably for being the only person in the province to have been awarded two Gold Cyber Lions at the Cannes advertising festival. And also because in previous lives, at Diesel, Cossette and TAXI, he did hold the Interactive Creative Director position. But just as he was telling our good friend Creative Director A, his new role at Bleublancrouge is about more than “just interactive”.

I had a chance to catch up with Dominique to reflect on his ad-making journey so far, squeeze out a few golden nuggets from his brain and even get some advice on how to win awards in the Cyber categories.

ihaveanidea: This question is old and tired, but just like an old hooker it’s still very useful, and everybody always wants to know. So tell us, how did you start your journey into advertising?

Dominique: I left Concordia University in 1988 and started up freelancing as a graphic designer and illustrator. I then got hired at a small studio where we mostly worked on corporate stuff like annual reports etc. Around 1995 after doing a lot of graphic design, my boss asked me to jump into the web side of things to help on a pitch for the Montreal Museum of Fine Art who wanted to redo their website. The museum had a page but it was horrible. So we had to design a branded page for them. We won and that’s how my foray into interactive branding really began. I started to learn my craft there and went on to do more web stuff, up to this day.

I went through the many web phases. At the beginning it was mostly brochure type stuff where you had to take whatever was done for other media and put it on the web, until e-commerce sites started popping up.

The design shop I was at was taking on more and more digital projects and went on to merge with a place called “Intellia” to form a 100-person shop. Those were the first great days of the web. We won tons of big accounts, mostly in the e-commerce sector: Sears, CN, Star Alliance, and a few others.

if you look at the web and interactive in general, we tend to do great but pretty confusing experiences that are not very tight in terms of communications. It’s a lot of cool brand experiences that lack in efficiency a little bit.

Intellia then became Nurun and was becoming too technology focused for my liking. So I shifted to a place called Normal in 2000. That was during the first dot com boom. The office producing the content was in New York and was working on stuff like Vice magazine or building their own food brand. So the idea was to develop those brands on multiple platforms: stores, a TV channel, a website, etc. In Montreal we were developing all the digital components to make those brands come to life.

But it was 2000. And as you can guess, everything exploded and the company had to close. 60 people in New York and 80 people in Montreal all lost their job on that same day.

taxi planb Dominique Trudeau

ihaveanidea: I know hindsight has this annoying tendency to be very 20/20, but did you consider following a more traditional advertising path when all looked doomed for the digital world?

Dominique: At the time I didn’t know anything about traditional advertising as I came from a purely graphic design background. I had tasted the future but I also understood that perhaps it was just too soon for all this. I wanted more of that even if it didn’t work out the first time. It’s okay; we’ll just try more.

While I was at Normal I met the people at Diesel (Now Sid Lee) by doing a small contract with them. So when Normal closed they called me and I ended up as Creative Director there. It was a weird period. They had to fire a lot of people for the first time that year, but we also won the Cirque du Soleil and the Tourism Montreal accounts. It was the first time accounts came to the agency through web projects and later became agency accounts.

But back to your question, I never considered going back. I really believed in it and I knew it would just become bigger and bigger. I was deeply involved from the very beginning.

ihaveanidea: This is all very funny since in your current role at bleublancrouge you’ve taken a much broader position, handling some traditional stuff too…

Dominique: The path I took after all those years brought me here. After Diesel I went to Cossette, then TAXI and now this. I started to complete the loop at TAXI as I was head of digital and design there. So I was slowly coming back to my roots and I really started to understand my role as a caretaker for brands. A brand can speak in different ways. When the receptionist picks up the phone, the brand speaks. When it answers comments on its Facebook page it speaks. And when it doesn’t answer, it speaks even louder. So even when it’s not doing anything, a brand lives. To do that I needed to be able to engineer all the touch points of a brand. Adding traditional advertising to my artillery was the last piece of the puzzle.

But I’ll admit that I am more interested in the new stuff. Not just because I like it, but because it’s taking more and more space in people’s lives. I’ve been watching my nephews grow and twelve years ago they were already using messenger and getting their content from the web. They weren’t watching TV. They were watching videos online or playing video games while chatting with their friends. These people are now young adults and they’re the people we’re talking to right now or about to talk to in a big way tomorrow. They have jobs, they have money, and they buy stuff. So it’s a totally different ball game.

a piece of craft can only be understood well if you place yourself in the time it was done. If you take the grid of evaluation of today on an old piece, you’ll get it wrong.

So it’s not about the believing or not anymore. It’s here. It’s a reality and we have to understand it. So by being able to do everything, I can choose which card I want to play. I can choose the people I work with and choose the best media for the job.

I have to play a game that has many players in it, not just me. And obviously it is sometimes hard to manage that, but it’s a very cool game nonetheless and I think there are lots of untapped opportunities. I feel like a kid whose playfield suddenly grew larger with so many new things he can do in it.

ihaveanidea: If you could pick one most valuable thing that you learned or that you could learn from the traditional guys, what would it be?

Dominique: I think the best part of being able to do everything is not that “yeah it’s fun to do TV”, and it can seem pretty easy compared to the sometimes daunting task of building websites – Not saying that doing great TV is easy, on the contrary. But what I really like is that the craft of making an ad and telling a story in 30 sec has been there for decades. Since Mad Men days. There’s something there to be learnt. The communication is very efficient. But if you look at the web and interactive in general, we tend to do great but pretty confusing experiences that are not very tight in terms of communications. It’s a lot of cool brand experiences that lack in efficiency a little bit. You’re never sure what the message is. So my plan is to learn from the people who’ve perfected this very efficient craft and bring that into the interactive stuff that we’ll be doing tomorrow. I want to replicate that efficiency in communications.

diesel cirquedusoleil Dominique Trudeau

But I also believe that the future lies in integrated campaigns. And I mean really integrated ones that talk together and create an ecosystem for the brand. A lot of people confuse integrated and multiple media use. I was sitting on a jury recently, and some of the stuff that was entered into the integrated category was a TV commercial that looked exactly like the billboard and sounded like the radio spot. That sort of stuff won’t make the campaign grow bigger. The media is not talking and they’re not creating a movement. So on that front there is more to do. I really believe that when media is well played up and talks together, we can bring more results to the table.

ihaveanidea : It’s interesting how everything changes so fast in interactive and often a campaign that’s regarded as brilliant one year becomes completely outdated and “lame” two years later, whereas you don’t necessarily see that in traditional mediums. Great TV spots from 20 years ago are still great today. How would you explain that?

Dominique: I think a lot of it has to do with trends. We’re at the Google years and we want efficiency, speed and results. Tools that will help us get our stuff done. So our challenge today is not to do heavy experiences with high production value but very few results down the line.

Things move fast and you got to catch people as they go in this crazy mode. So I think we can do efficient communications in doing less heavy stuff and more things that can help them. We have to follow the way people live. So that’s one of the reasons you’ll have trouble awarding a piece that won two years ago today. Great ads often belong to their time and space.

You can argue that when it’s really really great it will pass the test of time, but you also have to understand that a piece of craft can only be understood well if you place yourself in the time it was done. If you take the grid of evaluation of today on an old piece, you’ll get it wrong. Dove Evolution is a good example of that. It was perfect for its time. Little budget, done in the first big YouTube year. Great in its time and space but do that tomorrow and it has no impact whatsoever. Same goes for Get the Glass. Do that today and people will be impressed with the production value but that’s it.

I wanted more of that even if it didn’t work out the first time. It’s okay; we’ll just try more.

taxi reversa Dominique Trudeau

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ihaveanidea: that’s another funny thing. I noticed that looking at a traditional piece, it’s easier to look beyond the high production value, whereas with the web we’re still impressed whenever a new technology is used.

Dominique: Yes, it’s sometimes easy to be impressed with the technology instead of the message. We’re not impressed by airwaves anymore. It’s pure story telling. But it’s true that sometimes technology is way too present and can take center stage. I think as we will work with it, we will demystify it more and treat it as a transparent support to what we have to do. Just like we treat high production TV equipment, and that’s why I am learning the craft of traditional stuff right now!

ihaveanidea: Let’s say five minutes from now your phone rings, and Martin Sorell is on the end of the line. He says: “Okay Dom, I have $30M for you, but we need to start an agency together”. What would that agency be like?

Dominique: As much as I love and I have friends at purely interactive places, I still believe that it’s not enough. Because again, if I look at my nephew it’s not true that he’s only looking at interactive stuff. He’s not living like that. He’ll take his car, and along the highway he will still see billboards. So I believe in finding new ways, because every day there’ll be new means of communications but I think we should be agnostic of media. We should try to get the best solution to fulfill the objective. If it’s only TV, and that’s what’ll make it work, I’ll do it.

I am a creative guy and I like great creativity but after so many years I am tired of creativity for creativity’s sake. Sometimes there is just no point to that. I want the work to be the best in the world, for sure. But I want my stuff to work. I am tired of finishing a campaign jumping to another project without caring very much. I really really focus on making things work.

But it was 2000. And as you can guess, everything exploded and the company had to close. 60 people in New York and 80 people in Montreal all lost their job on that same day.

And it’s funny that we even have to stress that today. My job is to market my clients’ products. Yeah it’s cool to win awards and obviously I want to win them because it’s fun to go on stage. But I am supposed to deliver something that works and that makes a change somehow somewhere. Be it a behavioral change or simply selling something. I am supposed to work around a problem and deliver a solution and I am supposed to be creative at it. As soon as you get what your clients’ issues are, the solution starts there. But if you don’t give a shit about what the client needs or why we’re doing that, you’ll do work for awards only. And to an extent, I’m fine with it, whatever. But I don’t think it’s enough. I want to win those awards with things that work for the client when you deliver.

It’s a bit like being a general on the battlefield. You have to plan your battles but if you want to win the war, but you also have to go on the field and fight. Right now, we do our thing and once we’re finished we move on to other stuff instead of being pre-occupied by what can we do to make it work better. When our job is over it’s in fact starting. And that’s a shift in mentality. We need to be conscious that when you deliver your campaign, everything starts.

The agency will be willing to explore new territories. The mix of communications, of media and means has to be each time tailored to the client’s needs. And maybe it requires more time, more money and more thinking but that’s the only way that we can make it work. So I would build an agency around those principles. And I really believe that in doing so we will win awards and work with the cool clients.

ihaveanidea: Last time we met you had told me about this easy way to win awards that you had discovered. Would you mind sharing it with our readers and make it a bit harder for everybody?

Dominique: The easiest way for somebody wants to win gold at Cannes or One Show or at any other international level is to do a banner. Do a kickass idea on a banner that will work. By sitting on many interactive juries, I noticed the stuff that gets sent is so bad that if you do anything remotely cool, it’s your easiest ticket to get on stage. We look at 60-70 entries of banners and it’s usually awful. So at the end of the day, out of hundred of entries that get sent to Cannes, there are maybe 2-3 banners that are worthwhile.

taxi reversa banner Dominique Trudeau

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Interview by:

rafikcreditpic Dominique Trudeau

Rafik Belmesk
Operations, AKOS

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