Sid Lee CDs Céline and Clément Mornet-Landa tell LBB’s Alex Reeves about their far-sighted approach to brand building
Céline and Clément Mornet-Landa are a two-headed unit. The husband-and-wife duo of creative directors at Sid Lee Paris share their home in Montpellier, where they work for some of the week, jumping on a 300km/h train a couple of times a week to zoom to Paris. Adorably, they share an email address. They work on brands including Red Bull, Sobieski vodka and Klépierre, but there are two clients that encapsulate everything they stand for. They’re quite different: fast food giant KFC and sex brand Skyn.
They’ve been working on each of these brands for two or three years. And in that time they’ve done what they love to do for brands: Built all-encompassing platforms for them that will endure and grow them over time. “You cannot have a strong platform if you don’t have a mission,” says Céline. “Especially in these times. The more we go on, the more brands are ‘missioned’.”
“We don’t make one shots,” says Clément. “Each of the communications is like one brick to build real storytelling.”
One of the pair’s deepest-held beliefs is that long-lived brand platforms need to be underpinned by a mission and in the time Sid Lee has been working on Skyn the agency has helped them flesh out a strong one: to save intimacy.
Each campaign, Céline and Clément explain, is a new way to fight one barrier to intimacy for people, whether that’s new technology getting in the way or the shame or taboos people carry with the idea of using lube. Clément is happy with how the intimacy brand has “connected with society, not as consumers but as actors in society”.
They knew from the start that it was important for Skyn to have a strong statement and mission and they’re proud of what they’ve built. “It’s a challenge to talk about sex,” says Céline. “It’s even harder because of everything that’s happened in the industry and society, with #MeToo and things. It’s pretty delicate. You don’t want to embarrass people either.”
The couple have found it easy to build their vision for the brand though, because they personally believe that Skyn’s products - condoms, lubricants and sex toys - shouldn’t be a taboo conversation. “It’s a real part of society so it’s important to talk about it, not as a product but as something that can help you with your intimacy with others,” says Clément.
But not all products give agencies such a dream foundation on which to build a mission. “It has to be relevant,” says Céline. “You can say you want to save the world from this and that, but if you don’t do anything for real it’s just communication and it won’t work.”
Purpose needs to be connected to a brand’s product and what they mean to society. It’s something Clément sees advertising getting wrong all the time. “A lot of brands sell the product and have another purpose just to say, ‘OK, we are good boys!’ For us it’s important to find a purpose that’s deeply connected with the product.”
This shows in Sid Lee’s journey with Skyn. The brand was only making condoms when the Mornet-Landas started working on it, but the brand mission has opened it up to broadening its product range, making lubricants, treatments for erectile dysfunction and sex toys. As Céline puts it: “Everything you need to be intimately cool with yourself or your partner.”
KFC in France has been on an equally intriguing journey. Céline is brutally honest about the state of the brand when the account landed at Sid Lee in 2016. “I’m going to be a little bit mean, but it was nothing,” she says. “The communications were, as we say in French, ‘a train in the night’ - no one sees it.” They were desperate to build something strong to give the global fried chicken empire a bigger French footprint.
KFC actually opened its first restaurant around 30 years ago in France, but nobody explained the history of KFC to the French, or even who Colonel Sanders is. “French people didn’t know Colonel Sanders, nor his secret recipe,” he says, faux outraged.
So Sid Lee decided to tell that story of the secret recipe and explain the love for the fried chicken. It was a platform that built up slowly. And the pair loved immersing themselves in it. “It’s a cool story to tell,” says Céline.
The French didn’t know who the man on the bucket was - Céline suspects they didn’t even know that the C stood for chicken. “I think it was just [thought of as] fast food in France,” she says.
Now that the French public knows who Colonel Sanders is and what KFC does, the focus is more about emphasising the quality of the chicken, the quality of the recipe, the fact that it’s real cooks in the restaurants.
With the people educated on the brand’s identity, the next step to the long-term platform is trying to prove to the French that KFC has a place in pop culture. Earlier this year Sid Lee demonstrated this with ‘Bucket Bangers’, a Spotify playlist made up of 40 songs that namecheck the finger lickin’ chicken, including the Beastie Boys, Kanye West and Run DMC, plus music from France, Brazil and even Russia.
There’s a lot of bases to cover with KFC, but Clément describes the mission as tying up: “quality, chicken, cooking, pop culture on the side. This love of chicken is in the punchlines of Kanye West and Drake.”
The pair love that none of this is a stretch for the brand. “For a lot of brands it’s a shame to exist,” says Clément. “Shame is not very interesting for the brand, the consumer or the agency.”
So how do the pair manage to build the relationships with clients that make these long-term brand-building exercises their signature? “A lot of agencies will say it, but we really make it collective,” says Céline “We work WITH our clients. We listen to them. We really want them to be happy. Sometimes it needs explanation or learning. But we work hand in hand.”
Her husband adds: “You can't build a platform over three years without your client.” A lot of clients want quick results, he says. But two or three month results aren’t as key for Sid Lee. “You have to take time to tell a story.”
The duo are charming and modest, but they’re also honest.“I guess maybe we are good people,” ventures Céline. “We are kind. So maybe the clients like that and want to stay with us.”