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D&AD Festival Speaker Interview: Benoit Vancauwenberghe

Benoit Vancauwenberghe is a creative director, and a raging storm of ideas, words and awful jokes. Benoit claims that the DNA of his agency, 20something, is a perfect match with his: only by asking questions about everything around him - including himself - he can grow. This is also his goal in the world of advertising: asking questions, changing as much as possible. 

This interview took place ahead of Benoit's session entitled 'I got replaced by an intern' at the inaugural D&AD Festival. Below he tells us about his agency, 20something, and what he was forward to about D&AD Festival.

Benoit Vancauwenberghe 20something D&AD Festival Speaker

Can you explain the concept behind 20Something?

We started out to be a creative agency that revolves around the culture, values and behaviour of the new generations, not around the standard business model of an advertising agency. We put talented youngsters - we call them our Pop-up talents - at the heart of the business. They are part of everything: DNA, clients meetings, briefings, strategy, creation, realisation. It’s not only the interns that learn from us, we also learn from them!

How do you find other CEOs and ECDs respond when you explain it to them?

In the beginning, people thought it was just a temporary concept that wouldn’t work, that couldn’t last. Someone even said we were abusing interns!

Today, you can find one of our Pop-up talents in more and more Belgian advertising agencies. Together with our happy clients, they share the stories of their experiences at the agency, subsequently profiling themselves as the perfect ambassadors for the 20Something philosophy.

What could other agencies learn from the way you do things?

We always approached our youngsters a little differently from other agencies, giving them more responsibilities and freedom within a project. We firmly believe in this approach of investing as much as possible in our pop-up talents to get their maximum added value.

What is your advice for young people trying to break into the advertising agency?

The most famous creative agencies are not necessarily the best ones for an internship - mostly because you stay an intern.

Approach yourself as you would with any brand: create your own USP & ESP (Unique and Emotional Selling Proposition). If you want to last in this industry, you have got to find a way to stay true to yourself. Your personality has to become a brand with a clearly defined purpose, a certain brand ‘essence’.

Once you got that on lock, you have to keep pushing to prove yourself. They don’t want to open the door? Then get in through the window.

What will you be talking about at D&AD Festival?

The end of the traditional advertising agency and creative director as we know it.

The industry is in desperate need for some serious change because not only consumers have changed, but the advertising industry in itself didn’t stay the same either.

In the early days, your agency used to be cool if it had a basketball court or some dogs running around. Today, we need a different, more profound type of coolness based in your agency philosophy to keep it interesting. If you want to hear more, just come to the talk. It’ll be entertaining, trust me!

What are you most looking forward to about D&AD Festival?

Meeting young talent and colleagues, networking and discovering new people and getting overwhelmed by original ideas. Surprise me!

Why do you think London is such an exciting city for creatives?

Because London in itself is a strong brand! A lot of “popular” cities are just trending for a few years, but not London - it has its very unique DNA and just never goes out of fashion.

This year the theme for the Festival is ‘Nothing matters more’. In your view, why does creativity matter?

Creativity can resolve everything.

From science to politics, from heavy emotion to hyper rationalism: where there’s true creativity, there’s always a solution.

The D&AD Professional Awards celebrate creativity in categories such as Graphic Design, Book Design and Crafts for Advertising. If you think you have a campaign that deserves a D&AD Pencil, why not enter it and see if our board of judges agrees.

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