The unlikely thing about it is the fact that they both hail from Wellington, New Zealand, and arrived in France with zero knowledge of the language. For those of you familiar with French agencies, their often byzantine structures and hierarchies, or the French reserve toward foreigners in general, it was a highly improbable course of events that would, within a short space of time, place Rosapark both among France’s top agencies and on the international creative map – and put the two on course to win themselves shedloads of awards, D&AD and Cannes included. Michael Weinzettl caught up with the two New Zealanders in Paris to talk about their unusual vitae.
Hi Mark, hi Jamie. First of all, please tell us how you met.
Mark Forgan: In Hell. It was the name of the pizza restaurant where we met as students. We spent around five years there while we were both studying at university.
Jamie Standen: Yes, a pizza restaurant in Wellington. We were about eighteen, nineteen. On my first shift, Mark showed me how to put together the chicken salad – the trick was to put the chicken and avocado in the bowl first. That way, when you tipped it into the delivery container, it would end up on top. We worked there together about six years, I think. At that time I was studying music at university, but I ended up with an injury that put an end to any ideas about making a living from playing the guitar. So I was making pizza, thinking about what to do. Mark said there was a job where you could get paid to think of ideas. So, for about a year, we worked on a spec portfolio afterhours at the pizza place. It got us an internship at BBDO.
What were the major stages in your careers in New Zealand?
Mark Forgan: Getting our foot in the door at Clemenger BBDO straight after getting our degrees. A year afterwards, we won the NZ Emerging Talent award at the national Axis Awards, which was a great recognition after a year of working our arses off! After six years working with some of the best creatives in the country, and under our great ECD Duster (Phillip Andrew), it was then time to do something completely different and head off to Paris without a word of French in our Kiwi vocabulary.
Jamie Standen: We worked at Clemenger BBDO in Wellington for about six years before moving to France. The major stage for me was getting the job in the first place – everyone just assumed I’d been to design school. This is one of the great leveling factors of the industry we work in: if you have good ideas and can craft them, you can have a job.
When and how did the desire to move to France arise in each of you? And how did you go about it?
Mark Forgan: It was to go and experience a culture different from ours and jump out of our comfort zone. We actually arrived with our portfolio under our arms and just knocked on agency doors. The creative directors we met thought we were actually crazy leaving an awesome job and coming to France without speaking French! I think it was this as well that they quite liked. They saw it as being brave, I guess. However, if we had known before coming just how hard it was going to be, maybe we wouldn’t have come!
Jamie Standen: It was more of a desire to go somewhere other than London, which is a well-trodden path for young New Zealanders. There’s a culture of leaving in New Zealand. It’s quite normal for people to go overseas after university. We saw all our friends going overseas and wanted some of that action – but something a bit different. So we went the extra couple of hundred kilometers. We tried to sort out a job before arriving, but the distance made that too difficult. So we just booked our tickets and left.
Was it a big change for you? What are some of the differences between the way advertising is done, seen, and created between New Zealand and France?
Mark Forgan: It was a bit of a shock at the beginning for both of us – and them, too, I think. In NZ we liked coming up with heaps of ideas and constantly pushing to find something better (even if it was sometimes five minutes before presenting), which is great but then the time and attention to craft and production was at a similar speed, quite often resulting in some executions that felt this hurry. France is the opposite, so I guess what we added was a generosity of ideas. And what we learned from them was the detail and attention of crafting in production. A good mix!
Jamie Standen: “Big change” is an understatement! New Zealand is small. Things go fast. You’re juggling a million things at once, and there’s a great energy that comes with that. In France, the creative process can be more intellectual. The French take their time – and when it comes to craft, it makes all the difference. I couldn’t say that either approach is superior. Hopefully, what Rosapark has achieved is to marry the two.
Please tell us about your time with the other French agencies you worked at before getting together with Jean-Francois (”Jeff”) Sacco to launch Rosapark.
Mark Forgan: Y&R is where we first got our French wings under the CD collective of Les Six. After that, we went back to the BBDO network and joined Jeff & Gilles working on a lot of international work like Pepsi, Mars, EDF, and Tag Heuer.
Jamie Standen: We worked at Young and Rubicam for a few years before moving to CLM BBDO, where we first worked with Jean-Francois Sacco and Gilles Fichteberg, the founders of the agency along with Jean-Patrick Chiquiar.
Can you tell me about how you guys came up with the name? Whenever I used to hear or read Rosapark I first thought of Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist, then realized there was no “s” at the end.
Mark Forgan: The three founders (Jeff, Gilles, & J.P) wanted to name the agency as a physical place and liked the idea of it being an urban “park.” The rose park seemed like a good combo resulting in the “franglaised” Rosapark.
Jamie Standen: The three founders wanted to call the agency something ending in “park” and eventually settled on Rosa. I don’t think it was deliberately intended as a homage to Rosa Parks, even though it’s obviously very similar. In our identity there’s more of a connection with roses. We grow a whole lot of them on the terrace on the top floor.
Can you tell us a bit about Rosapark itself? How long have you been around, what are the accounts Rosapark works on? How big a staff do you currently have? To me, the agency seemed to have dropped out of the blue when I first saw work done by you (which, incidentally, was an amazing “Circus” commercial for Brother).
Mark Forgan: Rosapark was started five years ago by the founders – Jean-Patrick Chiquiar, Jean-Francois Sacco (Jeff), and Gilles Fichteberg – with the clients Monoprix and Thalys. Jamie and I were also there at the beginning and now we’re ninety-odd people with about 25 clients. In the last five years we’ve worked really hard to establish the agency’s creative reputation, both in France and around the world.
Jamie Standen: We’ve been there with them since the beginning. We’re around 90 people now, I think. Our foundation accounts were Monoprix, a French supermarket, and Thalys. Since then we’ve won accounts in all sorts of categories, including Europcar, and several sports brands from the Decathlon group such as Kalenji, Wed’ze, and Tribord. At the end of 2016, the agency won the Skoda account for France, which was quite a transformative moment.
What are some of the campaigns you created that you’re proudest of, and why?
Mark Forgan: For sure Sounds of the City for Thalys has been a huge success for us. I also really loved making the Human Emojis campaign we did for Innocence en Danger a couple years ago, which made the front cover of Lürzer’s Archive. It was the first campaign that put Rosapark on the map internationally.
Jamie Standen: I think the Thalys Sounds of the City campaign will always be one of my favorites.
What are some of the things about New Zealand you miss in France?
Mark Forgan: Family, friends, clean air, and good steak & cheese pies.
Jamie Standen: Friends and family mostly. The fact that New Zealand’s more of a “We can fix that” society, whereas France can often be “No we can’t.” On the other hand, cheese in NZ is generally rubbish (sorry, NZ). Let them make cheese with raw milk!!
How often do you manage to get back to New Zealand?
Mark Forgan: I’m leaving to go back today for two weeks. I make it back every year, normally around Christmas.
Jamie Standen: Once a year. It’s like taking the bus now. A long, uncomfortable bus.
Who were your heroes, mentors in advertising/design before (or as) you got into the business? Who are some of the ad creatives/designers you admire today?
Mark Forgan: I remember when I was at design school in the 90s one of the best agencies in the world was Saatchi & Saatchi Wellington. I loved their work and actually dreamed of working there. There was a great typographer there called Len Cheeseman whose craft and design was amazing for me. Today, there are so many great creatives and I feel it’s less about one person and more a collective that the world’s best ideas are conceived by. It’s so hard to bring to life a campaign without so many people now. It requires strategy, design, influencers, amplification, etc. A great team is needed.
Jamie Standen: I didn’t think much about advertising before I started working. My heroes were guitarists, composers, filmmakers. We try and encourage the creatives that work with us to seek inspiration outside of the business we work in. It’s great to know what other people are doing and so on, but if that’s your only influence it creates a feedback loop and everything starts looking the same. Personally, I’m loving the topical covers of The New Yorker magazine at the moment.
You’ve both won tons of awards for your work, among them Pencils at D&AD, Gold at Cannes, and many, many others. What is your attitude towards the multitude of award shows around, today, and which are the most meaningful, important awards to you?
Mark Forgan: Awards shows are always a tricky subject. There are too many, they are expensive, but it’s important to push ourselves creatively, to try to be included in the best shows. The nonprofit shows tend to have a higher standard and are the ones to be in. The One Show and D&AD are great examples of prestige and development; they’re really hard to be in and I regard the awards we’ve won there as the highest honor.
Jamie Standen: Everyone knows there are too many shows. The ones that will remain are those with a greater mission. Those are the shows I prefer. Taking a near neighbor as an example, D&AD awards are just one element of their yearly schedule. They do a lot to develop new talent, and to bring into the industry people who usually don’t break in because of circumstance, background, or whatever.
Are there any ad campaigns out there at the moment that you particularly admire, to the extent that you wish you had been involved?
Mark Forgan: I think the transformation of perception with Under Armor in the last few years has been incredible. Going from a real “jock” brand to their current supermodern positioning is a credit to the campaigns that have been coming out of Droga5. All that work would look great in anyone’s portfolio!
Jamie Standen: The work our old agency in NZ, Clemenger BBDO, has been doing on the road safety campaign is next-level stuff. Their “Ghost Chips” film, for example, from a few years back: How do you tell young people not to drink and drive and have them listen to you? Almost impossible. But they did it.
What is your take on the choice of media? Everyone today seems to have a preference for digital media and the possibilities it offers while print is getting somewhat neglected, or only very rarely the lead medium.
Mark Forgan: There’s still a place for every media, it just depends on the idea. Look at one of the biggest campaigns of 2016, which was an amazing way to show print still has a place to play. Burger King’s open letter to McDonald’s started in print and led to digital in a perfect and huge way. Even the “Brad is Single” campaign for Norwegian Airlines was another strong voice for print. The amount of people that took photos of that and shared it online was awesome.
Jamie Standen: Print has more of a role to play then ever. When you read the New York Times, for example, you know the rigor that has gone into the reporting. Who knows the origins of everything we read on Facebook?
How do you guys go about getting inspiration for your work?
Mark Forgan: By being curious, asking questions, and not being afraid to try things. Being different is the best thing we can try to be with creativity – it moves us all forward. I love looking back at so many artists that were ridiculed during their career only to be appreciated years after their death. A guy like Henri Rousseau, for example, can be inspiration for us to believe in doing something different.
Jamie Standen: The people we work with are inspiring. I love listening to an idea and thinking: “How on earth did you get to there?”