From the conference room of his boat-like Paris headquarters in the city’s up-and-coming 9th arrondissement, Fred Raillard can communicate real-time and in vision with his firm’s offices in New York, or Shanghai, as well as with the outside world; call up creative designs from others’ desks, share files, and maybe place an order for some new shirts when there’s a lull in the conversation.
Fred is the Co-founder and co-creative director (with Farid Mokart) of social, content, and tech solutions company Fred & Farid (fredfarid.com) – one of those lean, mean creative powerhouses you read about that’s really good at stealing the thunder from the big guys such as WPP, Omnicom, and Publicis – the latter being their own professional training ground as young pups at the turn of the century. A decade ago, the two set out independently and have since soared into a leading position in the ever-changing world of digital communications.
“The pivotal moment for me, as a company, was when we set up in THIS building,” he tells me in an interview on the premises for this blog. “It looks like a massive boat, bigger than it actually is.” It’s a corner building, completely refurbished by its present owners, who saved only the outer walls and constructed the rest according to principles of feng shue. “”Inside, it’s made of concrete,” Fred continues. “Now we’re indestructible.”
Cycles of Obsolescence
But despite the cement walls and awards, Fred is aware that the digital world in which he works is not contained by finite structures. Quite the opposite. “The pace of change in the digital world is vertiginal,” he says. “The cycles of obsolescence are so fast…If you want to succeed, you have to be able to let go of certainty, of rules. Even if you manage to do something great, you have to be prepared to give it up the next day because the cycles of obsolescence move so fast.” Indeed, it’s the constant pace of change in China that captures Fred’s energy: “Everything in China is moving all the time, moving forward in big waves,” he recalls. “Nothing is static. You feel as though you have to keep being in motion or you’ll be blown away.” That means moving past things today you thought were important yesterday.
Success, therefore, according to Fred, is the ability to let go “even if you fought hard for whatever it is in the first place. My friends who succeed are those who don’t get attached to things. Why resist change? It takes too much energy.”
Human capital is another story. “Creativity needs cross-thinking,” Fred reminds me, adding insight into how a small team of 400 employees worldwide can manage a roster of some 30 far-flung companies ranging from Telco’s to high fashion to fine watches to food. “Whatever we learn in one industry we apply to the others. And it’s important to outsource to get even more creative minds working on a customer brief .”
The strategy must be working. The Fred & Farid agency to date has represented over 300 brands and won more than 400 internationalawards, including 200 digital distinctions since 2011, and numerous international titles: Cannes Lions Grand Prix, Ad Age’s International Agency of the Year, 5 times Best Agency at World Luxury Award. Fred & Farid Shanghai was named International Agency of the Year for 2016 in January. In July, Fred was named Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honor), the most prestigious award France has to offer. Farid had been appointed in March 2016.
Show Me The Money!
But how does this all this awareness and acknowledgement translate into income? In short, aside from making a big splash, how does one manage to make money in digital?