Curosity, scope, discipline: Bourbonnais

Cristiane BourbonnaisGroup Account DirectorCossette Communication-MarketingQ. What does it take to be an agent of change?A. I think one needs a few qualities. The first is intellectual curiosity. By that, I mean, a taste for what's new and what's never been done...

Cristiane Bourbonnais

Group Account Director

Cossette Communication-Marketing

Q. What does it take to be an agent of change?

A. I think one needs a few qualities. The first is intellectual curiosity. By that, I mean, a taste for what’s new and what’s never been done before.

Also, I think you need scope and perspective, to enable you to see beyond the day-to-day problems. With scope and perspective, comes a conviction that there is another way.

I think you also need a very disciplined mental structure to help you cope and act upon the chaos and unpredictability that are caused by change.

And, finally, you need a very solid inner core, a strong sense of personal security, so you don’t feel threatened by change, and, in fact, welcome it and initiate it.

Q. How has the client-supplier relationship changed over the past couple of years?

A. I think that clients expect counsel from their advertising agency on broader a scope than just advertising.

They expect them to be full-fledged business persons. They expect them to be worldly, so that their contribution is not limited to advertising, but takes into account much bigger factors in planning and recommending solutions.

They want them to become true partners whom they respect and with whom they can have a real, meaningful exchange.

Q. When you enter a relationship with a client, how do you determine just how open they are to supplier-initiated change?

A. When I enter a relationship with a client, the first thing I do is I listen to their needs. And then I win their trust.

Without trust, you are paralyzed. None of your recommendations hold much credibility. With trust and a solid understanding of the client’s needs, only then can you bring about change.

Change is seldom a goal clients pursue for its own sake. They will be willing and open to change only if they have solid proof you know their business, you know what you’re talking about and they trust you. And then they are very open to change.

Q. How important to the process of change is understanding your client’s business?

A. It’s crucial. Without full understanding, how do you know if the recommendations are grounded, how can you predict the results, the consequences?

Change is never without pain, and it is never a natural course of action. You have to really want it and to be convinced it is the right thing to do, every step of the way.

So it requires commitment, and that commitment is never without trust, which is grounded on your knowledge of your client’s business.

Q. From where do you get your inspiration?

A. I get it from two sources. The first one is always the problem or the task at hand. If you look at it hard enough, long enough, and if you look at the ‘what if’ scenarios, the solution will become obvious. The most innovative solutions are contained in the problem itself.

The second one is I read and I read and I read. The more you know, the more you have to tap into. A broad knowledge of the world, of companies, of business, is a good starting point to get new and fresh ideas.

Q. How do you stay on top of trends in your field?

A. Trends in advertising are only that. Once something has been done, it is done, it is finished.

My job is to anticipate the trends in advertising, and those are grounded in consumer trends. So again, I read and read and read. I go to New York once or twice a year. I come back with a suitcase full of books.

I also try to follow companies that redefine the trends, like The Body Shop, Home Depot, Microsoft and so on.

Q. What would be your advice to clients who have expressed dissatisfaction with their suppliers’ willingness and ability to initiate change?

A. If your suppliers are unwilling or unable to initiate change, then you should initiate a change of suppliers.

Today’s world goes at warp speed. If you have to push your supplier, it means you’re being dragged by them. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link.