It really is a small world, after all. While Jacques-Hervé Roubert has never visited the Walt Disney spectacle, his worldliness leads us to believe he’s at least familiar with the oft-quoted saying. Since 2000, Roubert has expanded the interactive agency Nurun, which now encompasses a global network of 10 offices and more than 700 employees. (He visits each office at least three times per year, and has come to terms with jet lag.) A Johnny-come-lately he’s not — Roubert has worked in advertising and marketing circles for more than 30 years, and founded Cythère, the agency that evolved into Nurun, in 1995. He talks the talk, to boot: He’s fluent in French and Portuguese and carefully avoids the pitfalls of the language gap during those tricky client meetings.
What are the benefits of having such far-flung offices?
>> Nurun is present in North America, Europe and Asia because we are focused on our clients. Many of them — Microsoft, L’Oréal, AT&T, Louis Vuitton, Home Depot, Pirelli, Evian, Gore Fabrics — do business internationally. Having offices on three continents is strategic, because it allows us to better serve their needs from a global perspective. For example, what we learn about word-of-mouth or mobile marketing in China can be leveraged for our clients in other parts of the globe.
How do your offices interact?
>>It’s not so much our offices as our people who interact. Because our clients’ needs are global, it is a usual occurrence for employees from several locations to work together on a project or campaign. Marketing experts from our Montreal, New York and Shanghai offices are currently working on a project for Evian; creative teams from Quebec City and Madrid recently produced a Spanish-language campaign for Quebec Tourism; and writers from Milan and Atlanta worked together on behalf of Telecom Italia.
We have an open-door policy when it comes to employee mobility. We encourage it, whether it is for a few days, weeks or for a longer assignment — for instance, to set up a practice. A timely example: Our Paris IT director is moving to Shanghai in order to establish a strong offshore development platform. And in January, a campaign management specialist from Atlanta moved to Montreal for several months.
Is there a sense of competition between your offices?
>>By the nature of our business, we’re a competitive group of individuals; however, we work diligently to make sure that competition remains healthy. We view this healthy spirit of competition as an opportunity to grow — both internally and as a benefit to the organizations we work with. One way we ensure the competition remains productive is by hosting summits throughout the year that bring together experts from around the company. It’s a practice that ensures critical knowledge is shared, while it also builds respect and fosters collegial relationships.
Since you’ve entered the interactive world, what is the biggest shift you’ve seen in the industry?
>>The two most significant changes I have observed are the revolution in creativity in communications and the role of technology. Ten or 20 years ago, creativity was about having a great ad, TV spot or winning an award at Cannes. Today, creativity lies in making the best choice, and use of, the media channels available to us — search, mobile, gaming, social networks and so on. Technology is what makes the new age possible and will continue to advance it. Today, if you don’t master technology, you cannot take full advantage of the opportunities that the new media landscape offers to marketers and to consumers.
What advice do you have for agencies looking to expand their reach globally?
>>First and foremost: follow your client. In today’s global environment, organizations simply expect that from their interactive agency. Second: identify talent. By that I am referring to retention and recruiting. Don’t be afraid to work with your existing talent both to establish an office in a different location and to attract fresh local talent. Finally: expand your culture. Seek out employees who thrive on multicultural exchanges and who have an interest in living and working in different countries.