Just before the pandemic struck France, Publicis Luxe in Paris strengthened its creative department with the appointment of Marie-Eve Schoettl and David Soussan as executive creative directors. The artistic director and the copywriter first became a team at BETC in 2011 where, as creative directors, they worked on major brands for several years, in particular Air France, Bouygues Telecom, or Givenchy. But by the point their professional relationship began, the pair had already built a profound friendship.
Having worked more broadly, the allure of the specialist agency’s luxury international clients drew them to the new role, and they have since worked on brands such as Lancôme, Audemars Piguet, Lacoste, Maison des Femmes or Ateliers de Paris alongside the development of the agency by working on pitches for prospective new brands.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with this indivisible team of creative leaders.
LBB> What were you like as kids and how do you think that fits in with your partnership today?
David> I was quite sensitive and had the chance to have a few very precious friends, some of which I still have today. That, plus being surrounded by my sisters and their girlfriends, provided me with a balanced and faithful entourage. Marie-Eve and I became friends before even considering working together. Hence now, in addition to her being my forever undisputed work partner, I think we can pride ourselves on being kind of sisters.
Marie-Eve> I've always had my head in the clouds. When I was little, I was always reading or drawing. I didn't listen to anything in class and I was super shy, but, because I was funny, I always managed to make friends with the coolest people, those that were the most connected to others and to what was happening in real life around us. David inevitably became my BFF the same day I joined BETC. What we have in common is that we never take ourselves seriously, we share a good sense of humour and a great appetite for bullshit. And despite our 15 years of friendship and daily work, we continue to talk, listen and bounce ideas off each other with the same enthusiasm.
LBB> Marie-Eve, you’re passionate about fashion – what led you into advertising?
Marie-Eve> I started by trying for a literary prep school and then when I realised that I was too lazy to seriously aim for a prestigious school, I decided to reorient myself towards artistic studies. I didn't even know that there were fashion schools. And I was a bit of a snob, I had the impression that it was a much too superficial environment for the great intellectual that I thought I was. I didn't understand the power of the link that ties together couture and culture. It was a lot less obvious to me at the time. Today, the lines have almost disappeared and the big maisons are turning out incredibly interesting collaborations with great artists.
I ended up going to a school of visual communication where everything interested me. After my degree I decided to go into advertising without really knowing what it was. I just understood that the art director got to work on stories, sets, and costumes.
LBB> David – what made you change from account management to the creative side? Would you make the same choice today?
David> Ha! This is now an old story. I started off my career in advertising by sheer chance, as an intern at Publicis Conseil. When asked during the interview if I wanted to be an account manager or a creative, I didn’t even know such things even existed. But my studies (Masters in Economics & Marketing) answered that for me, and I became an account manager. Though it was fun for the first few years (new friends – again – made those years unforgettable), I sensed I was missing something, as if what was really going on was all happening in the meetings and events I wasn’t invited to: creative thinking, briefing directors and photographers, shoots, editing rooms… I had more and more trouble explaining what my job really was (“no Mum, I did not direct this commercial”). So I decided to give it a try, quit my job and applied for an internship at BETC. I was 28 at the time, I guess it was a bold move, but certainly the best I ever did. When questions are raised, profound ones, it’s important to face them. And if change is the answer, so be it. I thank my younger self every day to have had the courage to change.
LBB> You found your creative calling together at BETC on campaigns for Air France, Bouygues Telecom, and Givenchy, among others. What work really stood out for you?
Marie-Eve & David> Air France was certainly a game changer in our career: on top of being a campaign that we love, it was our first real global campaign, and was really in the DNA of the agency at the time, which made us super proud. We felt that what we had done mattered, a sincere campaign for the world, telling a beautiful story about France and its wonders. They ran the safety video on planes until just a couple of years ago! We also really enjoyed creating a brand territory for Bouygues Telecom, with stories that were both moving and funny. When Dancing Dad was viewed by 170+ million people around the world, we saw how that sincerity had paid off. Givenchy Irresistible was also a game changer for us as it made us realise how important and fascinating the changes of the beauty and fashion industry were.
LBB> How has the industry changed since you began?
Marie-Eve & David> Obviously, like any old-timer in the industry will tell you, the internet shuffled everything. I remember how dumbfounded we all were when the first dot coms appeared, like that meme of the dog hitting a keyboard saying “I have no idea what I’m doing”. Today, and especially after the pandemic, which accelerated the transformation even more, every act of communication has to be thought out thoroughly. The conversation is global, the needs and fights of a minority can become the claim of the majority. Brands aren’t just providers of products for the masses any more, they are choices people make because they match with their deepest aspirations. It’s no longer about selling, it’s about conveying sincerity.
LBB> David - What got you interested in scriptwriting and how did you get into it? Would that be something you’d like to do more of? How does it help you as an ECD?
David> As a copywriter, I loved to be able to tell a story in a few seconds, create fun or emotion in a very short period of time. Screenwriting has the same mechanics: you have to tell a pitch in a few lines to be convincing. The difference is that this pitch is just a starting point, from where the story unfolds, the characters become alive, the dialogues soar, the universe rules are set – there’s a lot of freedom in that. As my wife is a TV and feature films producer, we’ve developed a few things together, including SODA
, a four-season series that ran quite successfully in France. I still have two or three screenplays on my computers, but writing takes a lot of time (which I don’t have unfortunately), and the film industry is not at its best these days. Nevertheless, knowing what a story really is is gold in my advertising life, it offers perspectives that otherwise might be blurred by the complexity of the job.
LBB> You’ve worked on a wide range of campaigns before. What brought you over to Publicis Luxe? What appeals to you creatively about the luxury sector in particular?
Marie-Eve & David> We love stories and addressing a global audience with our campaigns. The luxury sector has it all. Plus the means of its ever-growing ambitions and the quest of new ways to relay them. During the pandemic, luxury has proven to be best in class in terms of digitalisation, be it sales, fashion shows, or retail. This industry is aiming for even more purpose, more sincerity in storytelling, excellence in making. It attracts the greatest artists of our times, in fashion, music, art, technology… with heart-warming inclusivity. Creatively, the opportunities are limitless and yet remain to be created.
LBB> What are some of your favourite brands?
Marie-Eve & David> Lancôme, Audemars Piguet, Nike, Burberry, Hermes.
LBB> What keeps you busy outside of work?
Marie-Eve & David> Same mental load as everyone else: Kids, family, debt, osteoarthritis. Beside that we try to read as much as we can and stay in touch through cultural events.