Sid Lee is a creative agency headquartered in Montreal, with a second outpost in Toronto, but with an increasingly international presence that includes three offices in the US, as well as one in Paris. (A separate Amsterdam outpost was shuttered in 2016). The group offers a wide variety of different creative disciplines, including architecture and design, and also runs C2, a major annual innovation conference in its home city. Yard is a creative content unit working alongside the Paris agency. In 2015, the agency agreed to be acquired by Japanese group Hakuhodo for an undisclosed sum, but continues to operate independently of its parent under the umbrella of international division Kyu. It has fleshed out its offering with selected acquisitions of its own, including Los Angeles social agency Denizen in 2020. Sid Lee originated in Montreal in 1993 as a promotional marketing and experiential shop under the name Diesel. A legal challenge from the Italian fashion label in 2006 prompted the change to the current name (an anagram of Diesel). It moved successfully into guerrilla-style creative advertising, most notably for long-time client Adidas, but growth since then has occasionally been bumpy. Dell's substantial North American business was a big win in 2011 and an equally big loss less than a year later. In 2012, a large minority stake was acquired by another key client Cirque du Soleil; it remains a commercial partner following the Hakuhodo deal. Hakuhodo's backing allowed Sid Lee to expand its global footprint beyond Canada for the first time. Canadian trade magazine Marketing named Sid Lee Agency of the Year for three successive years from 2009 and 2011, and again in 2013. Co-founders Jean-Francois Bouchard and Philippe Meunier remain honorary chairman and chief creative officer respectively; Bertrand Cesvet is now executive chairman with Vito Piazza promoted to CEO at the end of 2020.
Capsule checked 20th November 2020
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Adbrands Daily Update 27th Nov 2020: "Made With Love". There have been so many heavy-on-the-sentiment seasonal ads this year that they rather tend to blend into a huge great misty-eyed mash. However, from time to time, one ad or another really stands out. One such is this gorgeous, warm-hearted animation from Sid Lee for IGA supermarkets, the Quebec division of local giant Sobeys. The retailer is a long-time sponsor of the Fondation Charles-Bruneau, which helps to support kids with cancer, so it's that partnership rather than groceries which form the emotional core of the film. It's a beautifully judged and carefully scripted spot, offering lovely incidental details - the recurring cat, especially - and a heart-stopping twist at the 1:30 mark that almost - but not quite - threatens to change the entire story. It still ends in tears for any soft-hearted viewers, but happy ones not sad.
Adbrands Daily Update 12th Oct 2020: "Make The Cover". This riotously bubblegum-infused film from Sid Lee Paris and director Nadia Lee Cohen might well make you think twice (or even thrice) about Playboy Fragrances. Frankly it's amazing how the iconic but tarnished Playboy brand keeps going strong. Coty did a fine job of establishing the fragrance franchise back in the late 2000s, but the mantle has passed to plucky UK-based challenger Designer Parfums, which acquired the license in 2018. It now manages a modest but punchy stable of similar value-priced designer brands, many of them cast-offs from Coty and Procter & Gamble. If you're wondering whatever happened to Jennifer Lopez's one-time billion-selling fragrance business, here's where you'll find it, along with similar collections for Naomi Campbell, Ariana Grande, Ghost, Cerruti and even F1 racing.
Adbrands Social Media 6th Mar 2019: "The Hybrid You Can Feel". The first big campaign from Honda's new pan-European agency is a big disappointment compared to the fine work we've come to expect from the local offices of Wieden & Kennedy and McGarryBowen. Hakuhodo Collective is a dedicated unit drawing upon that Japanese group's handful of European subsidiaries, most notably the Paris outpost of Sid Lee. You might have expected better from that usually interesting agency. These are supposedly genuine testimonials from a collection of "real" Honda drivers across Europe. They're all suspiciously photogenic though, with distinctively actorly voices, and I've never heard such manufactured-sounding endorsements. "Onroad, offroad... it's still a road, right?" "It's like I can drive further than the horizon." Seriously, who talks like that apart from a copywriter? We already know Europe is, financially at least, one of Honda's least important regions. This Euro-pudding really emphasises that fact.
Adbrands Daily Update 17th Jan 2019: Longtime Omnicom executive Herve Grossard has joined Sid Lee as European chairman. Brossard had spent more than 40 years at The US group, most recently as CEO of Omnicom Media Group France and EVP, DDB Worldwide.
Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Jun 2018: Ads of the Week: "Good Sleep for Great Ideas". It's probably safe to say that no one expects ads for mattresses to be especially interesting. They are usually run-of-the-mill, sometimes amusing, but rarely stylish. Yet the French outpost of American mattress maker Simmons has been quietly defying convention for several months with help from the Paris office of creative boutique Sid Lee. Here's their latest little confection, designed to persuade us that creativity is born from a good night's sleep on a Simmons mattress. Clearly, the team at Sid Lee have all been testing that theory at home, and it must work.
Adbrands Weekly Update 1st Feb 2018: Ads of the Week "Be Olympic". With all the buzz surrounding the Super Bowl it's all too easy to overlook some of the other great work out there. Here's a fabulous ad from Sid Lee in Toronto for the Canadian Olympic Team. It's not like many sports-related ads you've ever seen before, taking a reasonably familiar epic-heroic style but repositioning it within an extraordinary painterly universe. It all goes to show that sport is about much more than just sport, it's about virtue and victory in the face of insurmountable odds. Marvellous.
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