Jacques Séguéla, Vice Chairman, Havas
Séguéla served as the Chief Communication Officer, Chief Creative Officer and Vice President at Havas. Since 2005, he is Vice Chairman of Havas. He began his career as a reporter for Paris-Match and then for France-Soir. In 1969, he created RSCG, which merged with Eurocom in 1991 to create Euro RSCG Worldwide. Séguéla is the author of eighteen books on advertising and related matters and has been involved in numerous political campaigns in France and abroad. He also serves as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Emotion Pictures, a French film production company, and as a Director on the Board of Directors of Compagnies du Monde, a French travel agency. Séguéla holds a Ph.D. in Pharmacy.
Reese: In your opinion, how important is music for building a brand?
Séguela: The word “audiovisual” says it all: Audio comes before the visuals. There’s a good reason for why words and images tend to disappear after some time, while the music stays.
Reese: I never thought about it that way. So how important is music for your work?
Séguéla: Music really makes up 50% of our job. But that doesn’t translate into the way French creatives work. They really devote 90% of their time and talent to the visuals, and only in the very last minute do they botch up some musical creation. It’s out of balance.
Reese: What do you think makes music so important for brands that want to engage with their customers?
Séguéla: Music is like the language Esperanto: It’s universal, it’s timeless, it connects, and what is more, it doesn’t need any obligatory translation once it’s used in an advertisement that is broadcast in multiple different countries.
Reese: That’s true. Some Anthropologists believe that Neanderthal communication was actually more a form of singing than speaking. Music a very primal and universal way of communicating. So when we think of brand communication, do you believe a brand should be recognizable by sound only?
Séguéla: Well, obviously the first thing people would think of in that respect would be the jingle, a musical slogan. It was invented exactly for that, and it works well. An audio logo is the immediately recognizable auditory signature of a brand, its musical DNA.
Reese: I use that term a lot myself: The “audio DNA” of a brand. It really breaks down the brand identity to a few notes only. Do you believe audio should be treated with the same discipline as visual and verbal branding?
Séguéla: It’s now about forty years ago that I created the position of an “Audio producer” as an equivalent to the “TV producer”. There’s no hierarchy, both fields have the same drive and the same talent. So yes. Audio and visual should be treated with the same discipline.
Reese: Could you share your most memorable experience with music and how it influenced your work?
Séguéla: In the early 80s, the Parisian Airports authority trusted me with their advertising budget. It was at a time when we were so lucky to be able to do advertising with a taste of show business. I came up with a spectacular spot where a Boeing took off the Champs Elysées, which had been turned into a runway just for the occasion. It was an absolute premiere, the images were overwhelming, but what made the film so successful was, in fact, the music choice. At the time, the Bee Gees had been losing a lot of followers in France, so they agreed to let me use their hit “I started a joke” in the film, at a very reasonable price. Our spot made the song the hit of the year in France and re-boosted the band nationally. All thanks to advertising!
Reese: That’s really impressive. Does that mean audio brand design is a part of your conversation at Havas when talking to a client about brand communication?
Séguéla: It’s a fundamental part of it. We have even created a branch at Havas where audio branding is the prime focus. A basic building block of a brand’s universal image has to be its audio identity.
Reese: Where do you see the greatest challenge in finding a brand’s voice?
Séguéla: There are three hurdles: First of all, you have to respect the brand’s identity, its DNA, and then you have to be able to amplify that. Secondly, the auditory representation of the brand has to be coherent with its communication in general. And thirdly, you have to be creative. Be daring.
Reese: But how do you get there? What’s your current decision-making process involving music?
Séguéla: I trust my intuition more than I trust reason. If a piece of music causes me goose bumps, then I know it’s good.
Reese: It’s not always easy for creatives to get across what they’re looking for in music. How do you communicate music when briefing a composer, a music company, a music supervisor or -publisher?
Séguéla: We tie them in really early. We include them just after the brief with the client. They’re involved from the very beginning of the creative process and not towards the end when there’s only very little creative leeway left. Havas has in that way recently partnered up with Universal Music, one of the biggest subsidiaries of Vivendi. This collaboration has become the figurehead of the Bolloré Group, of which we are a subsidiary.
(Note of the editor: The new collaboration is called “Global Music Data Alliance”)