Jean-François Bouchard: reinventing the ad agency model

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Jean-François Bouchard is the CEO & co-founder of Sid Lee, a global creative agency with headquarters in Montreal. What originally started as a boutique agency by two people in 1993 is now a team of 600 with offices in New York, Toronto, Paris, and Amsterdam.

Sid Lee stretches their talents from traditional advertising to multimedia experiences  and architecture. The agency was named “Agency of the Year” and one of the most performing agencies in the world by Forbes and has won multiple notable industry awards worldwide working on internationally recognized brands like Adidas, Cirque du Soleil, Ubisoft, Red Bull, and Absolut Vodka.

Two years ago, in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil, Bouchard launched C2-MTL, a three-day interactive multimedia business event that explores the intersection between creativity and commerce through speakers like Richard Branson, Philippe Starck, and Arianna Huffington, just to name a few.

The agency has had its ups and downs and has grown exponentially over the years, but Jean-François still remembers where it all started:

“I can’t really remember the low points vividly, an entrepreneur’s mind seems designed to forget most of those. The one tough moment I can remember is sitting down with my partner after a few months of intense work and attending to things as varied as fixing the copier, doing collection from shitty clients (like a greasy spoon restaurant), and writing a TV spot to discuss how we needed to get more partners onboard to avoid going insane. We did recruit numerous new partners over the year but many still think we’ve gone insane regardless.

In the second year, with new partners and new employees, the agency begun facing more mundane business tasks (like payroll) but today they run like a well oiled machine. Regardless of all the awards, the impressive client list, and the unstoppable innovation seeping through the windows and doors of their offices Jean-François has not yet committed to the idea that he’s made it.

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