Meet the leading duo behind FF Paris: Olivier LEFEBVRE & Séverine AUTRET

"Great people make great agencies". Olivier LEFEBVRE, CEO and Partner, and Séverine AUTRET, Managing Director and Partner are, since April 2019, the leading duo at FF Paris, the Parisian creative boutique founded by Fred & Farid. They spoke to AdForum after a few months at the head of the agency together.


 

Séverine Autret
Managing Director & Partner FF Paris
 


  • An article in CB News once described you as “a real work couple”. How did you meet and what did you think of one another?

Séverine Autret:
We met at CLM BBDO in 2012, when Olivier joined as a creative director. I was a Deputy Managing Director at that time. On hard skills, we complement each other, he’s an amazing creative and I like to build long lasting relationships with brands and clients.
Moreover on soft skills, we’re twins: we’re joyful, loyal, hard-working and empathic. We both love that job for the amazing ideas as much as for the people who make them. Since we started this adventure together, all our energy has been focused on growing people and brands. 
Nothing else matters.

 

  • What attracted you to FF after the more traditional CLM BBDO?

Séverine:
CLM made me, and everyone in Paris will tell you it’s a fantastic training camp for future agency leaders… Although after so many years, I wanted to experience something different, to get more exposure, new challenges, something more entrepreneurial too.
Heading an agency like FF is incredibly exciting, first because of the culture: it’s always been driven by excellence, in ideas and the craft. It’s amazing. Everyone here is talented, obsessed with ideas and has ownership.
And then, even though culture and talent are essential, the structure and the people react quickly and positively to any change. One of the most exciting things in this industry is how impactful you can be to an organization, the quick turnaround you can make, internally or on clients and brands. FF is that kind of agency: ambitious, fast, agile. Olivier and I decide, and then we do. It's as simple as that. It feels fresh and direct. I really love it and I’m proud.

 

  • You’ve talked about organizing the agency in a “horizontal and agile” way. Does that mean less permanent employees and more freelancers?

Olivier + Séverine:
FF is a boutique agency and we want to keep it that way. Great people make great agencies.
We want to be able to choose everyone of them, and we want direct and daily contact with everyone. Moreover, we don’t like layers. Young generations hate layers too. An agency is an open place where creativity rules. We believe that anyone, junior or senior, can have a great idea, anyone can impact things, anyone should be able to make things happen, rather than just reporting what others do. Working with freelancers is just another opportunity for us to build
tailor-made organizations for the more specific needs of our clients. Those who work with us on project-based understand this very well. But the strategic, creative and account lead always remains within the agency.
We can organize the agency to adopt its morphology to any topic, any brand, any situation. It’s FF’s strategy at global level: we like our teams to work as a family. When you have 50 people in your agency, everyone knows each other very well, and you can truly have a horizontal organization. And in addition to retainer accounts, we work more and more on a project basis, which means adapting our resources very quickly to a variety of topics and challenges.

 

  • You regularly work with clients from China, such as Oppo. What have you learned from that experience? Are their requirements different to those of “western” clients?

Olivier + Séverine:
We learn from every client and every experience. For chinese clients, anything is possible, always. It is a great opportunity to challenge our processes and explore new skills in being effective.
That being said, FF is truly international, and strongly connected to China since FF Shanghai opened in 2012. All our agencies and people are in direct and daily contact with each other all over the world. We work on Wechat, we have cameras in the FF lobbies to say hello to everyone when passing by! Many of us have lived abroad, so we all measure the cultural gap and the need to be flexible, open to change and difference. It’s part of our DNA.

 

 

  • Although the network is now called FF, in what way does it still show the influence of Fred & Farid and their way of working? Is there a distinctive FF creative style?

Olivier + Séverine:
FF was born creative, agile and independent, as are its founders. Any individual at FF shares that same state of mind. No creative style, we can do luxury watches, tech, cheese, bank or retail. Whatever the topic, everyone is a finisher. We never give up on a good idea, we never give up on craft. Fred and Farid are the founders and the CEO of the FF, they now live respectively in LA and NYC, and they run the FF LA and FF NYC offices. Even though we are one agency, one culture, one family, one way of working and one vision for our brands, each office also has its autonomy. And of course, Fred and Farid are amazing consultants when we need them. Their advice is gold.

 

  • You are a duo. Séverine, which question would you like to ask Olivier? and Olivier, which question would you like to ask Séverine?

Severine: Olivier, you’re so punctual, what’s your secret? :)
Olivier: Severine, what’s your name again? (my wife’s name is Severine as well, so when I talk about a “Severine” people never know if it’s my wife or my partner at FF…) 

 

FF Paris
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Paris, Francia
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