Damien Guiol and Samy Benama are pure products of the Change Group.
After working at Leg, Havas and Native, they made their debut at Brand Station (a Change subsidiary) as a creative team and were appointed creative directors of Brand Station in 2018. In 2021 they were appointed CCOs of the Change Group, an FCB alliance.
Here they give us a sample of what their creative approach looks like.
LBB> How would you describe your personality?
We thought the best way to answer this question was for each of us to answer for the other.
Samy> Damien is intuitive, quick-witted and a go-getter. He has the ability to put 100% of his energy into bringing ideas to life, without asking questions.
Damien> Samy is intuitive, quick-witted and a go-getter. He has the ability to put a 100% of his energy into bringing ideas to life, without asking questions.
Samy and Damien> Lol
LBB> How do you like to see the world?
Damien> Through my childhood eyes.
Samy> I appreciate less and less seeing the world through a screen, if that’s an acceptable answer.
LBB> Do you think creativity is something that’s innate or something that you learn?
Damien> There are 7.7 billion creative people, artists. It is innate. Those who use this creativity for marketing have to filter it through the observation and understanding of people.
Samy> At the very beginning of my career, I thought nature had given me a gift. Then I realized I wasn’t that talented, so I started working. Therefore, I’d say you have to acquire it.
LBB> Would you consider yourself an introvert or extravert – or something else?
Samy> Like an introvert who fakes being an extravert.
LBB> How do you feel about routine?
Damien> My routine is not to have one. Aside from a few cups of coffee at key moments throughout the day, haha.
Samy> My routine is very strict in the morning… Then freestyle the rest of the day.
LBB> When it comes to creative ‘stuff’ that you enjoy, do you like things that are similar to the work you do or do you enjoy exploring?
Samy> I tend to look at creative things I’ve never done and would like to do in the future.
Damien> Observing stuff allows us to nourish our creative work, develop it, make it different each time… It’s a virtuous cycle.
LBB> How do you assess whether an idea or a piece of work is truly creative? What are your criteria?
Damien> I like that moment when I tell myself that I would have liked to have had this idea, or that the idea is surprising, clever, smart. Then it has to go through a first filter: “does it serve the brand?” If it passes those two steps, we’re on the right track.
Samy> First, I try mostly to trust my initial reaction when I discover the idea. That’s often the best criterion. The other criteria are, “is it true? Is it useful? Is it original? Is it surprising? And, lastly, would I have loved to have had this idea?” That last criterion is particularly efficient.
Damien> Ah I forgot one important criterion: whether Samy loves the idea or not.
LBB> Has that criteria shifted or evolved over the years?
Damien> A bit with the times, different trends… and as we grow older, our advertising culture tends to grow too (at least I hope it does haha) and weighs in the balance. But it is crucial to keep the freshness and carelessness of the early days.
Samy> Let’s just say that the list of criteria is getting longer, but the best ones are still the same ones.
LBB> What creative campaigns are your proudest of and why?
Damien> The last little social media post for one of our brands. To build our brands, we have to be proud of everything and intransigent with any campaign.
Samy> Poulehouse. Because it is an advertising UFO in the egg industry, and because the cause behind our film is a beautiful one.
LBB> Overall, what do you make of the industry’s creative output right now? What’s exciting you about it or frustrating you?
Samy> What excites me the most is the infinite number of creative possibilities that new tech has to offer, as well as the fusion between the worlds of media, entertainment, social and advertising. What excites me a bit less is the formatting of ideas. Nowadays, everyone wants to save the world, but everyone isn’t Patagonia.
Damien> But can Patagonia save the world? Haha. I hope I’ll be able to answer this question through the answer to the previous question in our next interview.
LBB> How do you like to start a campaign or creative project?
Samy: Isolated in a corner, with my headphones on, ready to dive into the subject for at least an hour.
LBB> Are there any tools or platforms (analogue or digital) that you find particularly helpful for gathering or iterating ideas?
Samy> Of course, many. Classic ones such as Twitter, Reddit and Instagram. And other creative platforms like Love The Work, Adsoftheworld, Trendhunter and LBB Online of course, the best of all (no worries, this product placement is free).
LBB> Are there any techniques that you’ve tried that just didn’t gel with you, why?
Samy> I’ve seen many copywriters draw ‘association of ideas trees’ on their notebooks. I tried once, wrote three words down and got lost in my thoughts.
Damien> I don’t know if I’ve tried many, but I’m sure I haven’t found the right one. Do you have a solution for me?
LBB> Do you like to start every project as a blank sheet or are you constantly collecting possible inspiration or references for future projects?
Samy> I feel like it’s possible to answer positively to both. Collecting inspiration on a daily basis is essential, and moreover, it helps in starting each new project in order to come up with something new.
Damien> Every subject is different, so I don’t think we should start them in the same manner. We shouldn’t fall into a routine, but rather cultivate our creativity’s magic and agility.
LBB> Do you prefer to work collaboratively or alone?
Samy> I like to meditate on my own and discuss with others afterwards, on the basis of our individual thoughts.
Damien> Both, and in both ways.
LBB> When it comes to the hard bits of a project, when you’re stumped, do you have a process or something you like to do for getting past those tricky bits?
Samy> I don’t know any magical formula to get out of a creative impasse, I would say you only need to step outside your bubble. Talk to a strategist, a creative colleague, your wife, a friend, your grandma… And if after that you’re still stumped, go for a run and a shower… everyone knows that’s when the best ideas come to you.
Damien> Those are actually the times when I don’t ask myself any question. Let’s push ahead, and with a bit of luck, this freedom of thought will bring us the solution… or not.
When you’re working with a group, where you might be helping someone else with their process.
LBB> How do you know when a piece of work is ‘done’?
Samy> When we’re obligated to hand in our work. If we had unlimited deadlines, we would try to improve our projects over and over, and it would become annoying.
Damien> It’s never over. But as Samy so accurately points out, you have to know when to stop.
LBB> Where did you grow up and what early experiences do you think sowed the seeds of your creativity?
Samy> I grew up in the suburbs of Lyon. I don’t think this beautiful region necessarily brought me anything creatively speaking, but it allowed me to meet people from very different horizons and social origins. And this definitely opened my mind and developed my curiosity.
Damien> Coming from very different horizons gives our point of view a larger scale. The world changes so fast, trends too, so the factors are never the same ones. As for the mood: see, I already want to answer differently.
LBB> How did you hone your craft?
Samy> I am a 90s-2000s kid, so the pop culture from those years influenced me a lot (Dragon Ball Z, Snoop Dogg, The Matrix, etc.), nothing very original. After, the great campaigns from brands like Smart or Volkswagen (around 2010) gave me a hint of what advertising excellency is. And the more I write this answer, the more I realize it might become way too long so I’ll summarise it by saying “I honed my craft by drawing inspiration from everything I saw, read, and felt since I was born”. There.
Damien> The day I understood that the meaning had to serve the idea, and not the contrary.
LBB> When it comes to your own creativity, what external factors can really help you fly, and what do you find frustrates it?
Samy> What helps: good stress, a good atmosphere in the team, to be surrounded by passionate people, to have comfortable deadlines (but not too comfortable), and enough budget. What doesn’t help: the opposite of what I’ve just written.
Damien> To me, being a team is our greatest strength, so I’ll answer in 4 letters: Samy.
LBB> What advice would you give to clients looking to get the best out of the teams and agencies they worked with?
Samy> Trust them, give them some time, speak with the creative teams, and before anything else, try to define your marketing objectives clearly to give them a clean-cut brief that can’t be misinterpreted.
Damien> French ad legend Jacques Séguéla often says: “fewer tests, more balls”. Listen to yourselves a bit more, have convictions, and trust yourselves. Love what you buy, you are the first to be convinced, never the last one.
LBB> How do you think agencies can best facilitate creativity in terms of culture and design?
Samy> I don’t really know, the subject is vast. Maybe by creating more gateways and common projects between agencies and the sectors of culture and design.
Damien> Andy Warhol, Vasarely… many artists have done advertising and vice versa - advertising has inspired so many artists. To use craft, beauty, and meaning to tell a story and sell a product all contribute. If we can raise the bar when it comes to two TV reality shows, that’s a good start, isn’t it?