Publicis Conseil ECD on growing up in a palace, being part of the vast Publicis machine and the importance of ‘experiential thinking’
Now executive creative director at Publicis Conseil, Elie Trotignon’s background is rooted in the experiential and digital side of creativity. An architect by training, He’s worked at various agencies including Digitas, Nurun and French independent agency Visual Link, which he co-founded in 2005. Obsessed with usability, consumer experience and behaviour change, Elie has won numerous creative awards with clients in various sectors, from luxury goods to IT services to travel.
As creative director at Nurun - an agency within the Publicis Group that specialises in digital communication, strategies and transformation - he led multiple ecommerce and digital projects for multinational clients, corporate projects and CRM builds. His career focus had since been contributing to the agency’s excellence in multi-device creativity, building multi-device sites and apps, until he segued into his current role as ECD for Publicis Conseil.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with him to find out more.
LBB> Where did you grow up and what was your upbringing like? Were there any clues about what you'd end up doing as an adult?
ET> I grew up in Versailles, in a very chic but very conservative and traditionalist area. I spent literally all my free time in the Palace of Versailles, the king’s chamber was my teenage playground. Everything around me was so related to history that I was craving for modernity and renewal.
LBB> You studied architecture in Paris. Was that always a passion growing up? What attracted you to it?
ET> I was roaming, lost between different potential professional paths, from being a kitchen chef to art historian before I started studying architecture, which came as a relief. I never really considered working as an architect but it was really cool to study for six years among a super open-minded group of people where every discipline collides to open new ways in every direction.
LBB> How did you get from architecture to becoming a digital creative?
ET> All my friends in the late ‘90s were already working, most of them in the French video game industry, which was very vibrant at that time. Thanks to their technical knowledge, we started to create interactive environments where humans could directly interact with machines, like early-age, low-fi, IRL video games.
Immediately after my graduation and because of all these experiments, I was contacted by Pixelpark, a big German digital agency who was opening an office in Paris, to join them as a concept developer. The deal was to keep doing what I was already doing but being paid for it.
LBB> When did you first develop an interest in data? So much of what you’ve created uses it as the foundation.
ET> Seven years ago we started some very cool projects with ex-Google employees specialized in AI and Big Data. Our first attempt was a lot of fun but also very frustrating: from trying to make dead poets speak, thanks to all the corpus of knowledge we know about them, to trying to invent new cool apps to manage all the daily threats to your life. We worked on tonnes of unsuccessful projects before being able to give birth to one viable product for a client. Today data is a no-brainer from insights fueling creativity to more subtle campaign mechanics. It's at the core of everything cool we do.
LBB> What's it like working at Publicis on the Champs Elysées? It's quite an iconic advertising office, with a lot of people in it!
ETY> I always loved big machines. It's very nice to be able to pick the right talent to create a unique team and I have a lot of choice with many good people. Even if Publicis is one of the most iconic advertising agencies in France, the spirit of entrepreneurship has always been in its DNA. It's the key reason I always feel a lot of freedom to try to reinvent the system.
LBB> How do you think your experiential design-based career path has affected the way you manage your creative department?
ET> I guess the impact must be about the way of working. Maybe it's such a cliché but I do believe that the idea can come from everywhere and everyone: from an intern to an account person. And more importantly I think we should never be too eager to kill crazy ideas until we tried to make it work. We value experimental thinking as much as possible. I think it's the only way to come up with unusual solutions.
LBB> At the start of 2017 you moved from Nurun to Publicis Conseil - what was that transition like? Despite both being part of Publicis, they seem like very different kinds of agency.
ET> Publics Conseil and Nurun Paris were actually already working very much together. It was more about making our relationship official, like a wedding but with 900 hundred people all together. Obviously it was easier to come as a group of people already sharing the same culture. Two years later it's funny to see the change of perspective from the two sides: an all-star copywriter thriving in real-time marketing for social media and a killer UI designer being the next up-and-coming movie director.
LBB> Which recent pieces of work are you most proud of?
ET> Probably a campaign for Engie, a global company leader in green energy. Instead of doing classic communication we embarked with them on a journey to create real proof of their impact around the world: the EngieHarmonyProjects. The last one sent us to Mexico city, where thanks to innovative solar panels and local graffiti artist, we tried to make a neighborhood a little safer at night.
LBB> Who are your creative heroes? Any specific people who inspire you?
ET> People who challenge the status quo with panache: Rem Koolhaas, Frank Castorf, Kraftwerk.
LBB> What part of your job do you most enjoy?
ET> Recruiting new talent, finishing a project, starting a project, winning a pitch, late beers with the crew.
LBB> And when you’re not applying your talents for clients on the Champs Elysées, what do you most like to do?
ET> Being off-grid in a hut? Yes, sometimes. But not for too long and more often exploring the French and international ‘foodista’ scene, with dedication and commitment.