Blog / October 10, 2018
For the past six years, Infopresse has published a top 10 list of the most significant people in the industry in Québec. This year, our partner and creative director at the Montreal office has been recognized.
A huge BRAVO to Nicolas! The honour is well deserved.
To see the article on Nicolas, click here.
Read the transcript below.
Rethink’s arrival in Quebec’s advertising landscape in 2015 raised few eyebrows. Although some may criticise Canadian or international agencies for coming here and attempting to recreate a cultural model that doesn’t suit the Quebec market, this partner and creative director managed to give Rethink Montreal plenty of local colour in only three short years.
“During our first year here, there was quite a bit of cynicism in the advertising industry,” says Nicolas Quintal.
Indeed, DDB, John St. and Union—all satellite offices from other Canadian agencies—arrived at roughly the same time. “People were calling us the ‘Four Toronto Agencies’.”
Not the most accurate description considering Rethink had been founded in Vancouver in 1999 and only opened their Toronto office in 2010. Nicolas, an art director for five years at Cossette and three years at BBDO, sold his apartment in Montreal around 2006 to move to the West Coast. He ended up working in Rethink’s Vancouver office for the next nine years. “Culture is so important to this agency that they wanted an in-house French-speaking Quebecer.”
As Rethink grew larger in both size and vision, the opening of a fully functional office in Quebec was becoming imperative. It was growing harder and harder to adequately serve one of its largest clients, A&W, and its (then) 65 locations in Quebec. The same applied for the almost constant influx of adaptations needed for other major clients such as Molson.
“After three or four years, I was still culturally very Québécois, but after nine years of living in an English-speaking city every day and having friends from there, you slowly grow less connected to Quebec and its culture.”
Nicolas already had plenty of work on his plate once he returned to Quebec without having to worry about any intensive business development. This, however, didn’t stop him from landing Sports Experts in his first year back—a relationship that was built slowly and has helped solidify his team from the beginning.
Three years later, Rethink Montréal’s portfolio had expanded considerably: A&W, Les Éleveurs de volaille du Québec, Kraft, Fantino & Mondello, Sports Experts, the NFB, Maille, Tabasco, Ikea and WestJet were all being run out of the Montréal office. Two-thirds of their work now consisted of original creative with only a third of their output focusing on adaptations. “I made it very clear to the partners, Chris Staples and Ian Grais, that I was not interested in opening a satellite office if we were only going there for adaptation.”
New Market, New Insights.
“Even if Rethink has existed elsewhere since 1999, it still had a reputation to build in Quebec. It was a little bit like starting from scratch; we had to find ways to appeal to both new clients and fresh talent.”
The biggest challenge waiting for Nicolas in Montreal was management – he’d always been a part of the creation and execution side. “I was far from being a numbers guy.” This is why it was important for him to have the best people in place.
“The recruits needed to recognize what had to be done during the first two years.”
His first employee, a copywriter named Xavier Blais, understood this right away.
“When he arrived, there were no walls, no furniture, only a few phones on the ground.” The first five employees shopped for furniture and spent the first week assembling every piece— an important step in making the space and the agency their own. “From a management point of view, spending a week assembling furniture could be perceived as not very profitable. However, it was one of my best investments.”
All of the employees present since those early days remain loyal Rethinkers and still feel strongly invested in the company. They’ve since moved to a space three times larger and currently have around 20 employees.
In 2017, only two years after its arrival, Rethink was the fourth most awarded agency in Quebec’s Crea Contest with three Grands Prix wins. Then the agency claimed the fifth position in Strategy Magazine’s annual ranking, based on the number of awards received. They were also nominated ten times (in the Design, Direct Marketing, Film, Interactive, Radio and Responsive Environment categories) at The One Show, and won two Gold prizes for their “Thermal Discount” activation for Sports Experts.
With the whirlwind of progress made over the last three years, Nicolas feels Rethink will have no problem making a lasting name for itself in Montreal’s advertising scene. His vision looking forward is one of steady, organic growth; straying away from the “bigger at any cost” mentality so rampant in the industry.