Catherine Foisy : "I want to deconstruct gender stereotypes in advertising."
François-Olivier Thibault, also known as FO, has been the Lead Creative at Republik for several years now. In his role, he has helped Republik define its values, mission, and vision. However, social responsibility wasn’t always in his DNA:
“When you're young, you don't bother to ask yourself if your beliefs are aligned with those of your employer. These are questions that come up only later in life. For me, these thoughts started when I first began working in experiential marketing."
“You can't force someone to experience a brand, so you ask yourself how you can make yourself relevant in people's lives and how the brand can play a role in that. It was very educational for me and I realized that I didn't feel like shoving something down people's throats. I wanted, and still want, to create real value."
While working at the agency, FO was also busy writing his master's thesis and it’s purely by chance that he found his subject matter. The same subject matter that helped him take his personal reflections on corporate social responsibility one step further:
“I came across an article in Adweek highlighting feature documentaries produced by brands, including Patagonia, that had a shot at Oscar nominations!"
“For me it was intriguing. Patagonia was educating people about the impact of hydroelectric dams on the wild salmon stocks. Why take hundreds of thousands of dollars of your marketing budget to produce a documentary that doesn't even talk about your business? So that's what my MA was about - this thing that might have seemed like nonsense at first."
The answer to this nonsense, found by FO at the end of his thesis, was quite simple: beyond the functionality of products and services, brands must connect with their consumers through shared values. All this from the perspective that it’s possible for brands to have a positive impact on the environment or society.
At this time, FO was interviewed at Republik. That was a sign and everyone was speaking the same language around the table. A few months later, Republik began to reflect on its mission and values as an agency.
“Purpose marketing is gaining a lot of popularity these days, but it was not fashionable back then. We just wanted to build an agency based on the thoughts we had on the role brands could and should play in society. Our initial game plan was to only work with responsible brands, and over the course of the projects, we realized that we could also intervene for more awareness. Today, we have our very own Social Capital Creation™ process to always keep improving our methodology."
“Ultimately, the goal with Republik is to offer a new agency model. And it helps to have two associates who are not from the agency world."
Today, for FO, it is clearer than ever. We are talking about awareness among brands, but it must also happen throughout the industry at large.
“We're in deep sh**t right now. On an environmental level, the planet is burning, on a social level, inequalities are greater than ever. In short, we’re hitting brick walls."
“The other thing is thinking that change is only going to happen through the government and individual actions is to completely ignore the power and potential that businesses hold. Capitalism is what makes the world go round, so why not use corporations as agents of change?"
“Some companies have realized this, but others need a spark to see its potential and a helping hand to take action. The bottom line is that I want my clients to be part of the solution."
What kind of agency welcomes the personal convictions of its team members? An agency that wants to change the world, nothing less.
At Republik, we work with clients who understand the importance of taking action on social and environmental issues and who integrate the principles of social responsibility into their business models. We are looking for talents who have strong convictions and who have the ambition to change the world.
Don't let your convictions take the backseat, put them to work and run with it.