Few public relations firms have experienced the kind of start enjoyed over the past two years by French newcomer Agence Elan, which saw its work on behalf of flagship client L’Oreal—coordinating an international celebration of the company’s centennial that included 100 corporate responsibility programs in markets around the world—earn the Platinum SABRE Award for the best campaign of 2009 in Europe; picked up the French Consultancy of the Year award from this publication and from Stratégies magazine; and was named Best Newcomer Agency by the European Excellence Awards.
Agence Elan is a new agency with an impressive pedigree. Founded in 2008 by former TBWA/Corporate public relations chief and managing director of Edelman France Marion Darrieutort and led today by chief executive Darrieutort and chairman Jean-Pierre Rousset, a veteran of high-profile in-house communications roles and more recently president and chief executive of the French operations of Burson-Marsteller, the firm has grown quickly despite the difficult economy and with a team of around 40 people is already one of the largest independents in the French market.
Offering both brand and corporate public relations support, the firm takes a multidisciplinary approach that recognizes the impact of digital and social media and draws on the skills of not only traditional public relations practitioners, but also marketers, researchers, web developers, videographers and more, all of them working to deliver programs that tell compelling stories, in a culture that values creativity and boldness, or what Darrieutort calls “audace,” all of which helps the firm stand out in the traditionally conservative French PR market.
Darrieutort and Rousset are supported by founding partners Nicolas Narcisse, a former crisis consultant with i&e Décisions and an expert in issue management and strategic opinion planning who also worked at TBWA/Corporate and has been responsible for the development of Elan’s proprietary issue and opinion management tools, and Elodie Monchicourt, another former i&e consultant, who also managed major clients at Self Image, a French agency and is now head of Elan’s brand influence strategies division. The past 12 months have seen several key additions, broadening the firm’s capabilities in the digital arena; expanding its international capabilities (with new Mexican, Greek and Canadian-American team members); and refining its storytelling approach with the appointment of vice president Alain Louyot, an editorial expert and previously director of French media group Expansion.
The firm’s first client was Yahoo!, and Elan built rapidly on the foundation it provided, winning work for a host of blue-chip multinationals including L’Oréal and the L’Oréal Foundation, Electrolux, Metro, Moet&Chandon, ING, Kellogg’s, KFC, Toshiba, Meetic.fr, Vitamin Water, Eurostar, ACSEL and Les Etangs de Corot. New additions over the past 12 months include Google, Louvre Hotels, Pernod Ricard, Chivas Regal, Shangri-La Hotel, Paris, L’Eclaireur and Tranoï, contributing to the firm’s continued growth (fee income was a very healthy €3.2 million in 2009).
Interesting assignments included the firm’s continuing work for the L’Oréal Foundation, including French and international PR for the 12th edition of L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science programme; the development of a think-tank of 10 CEOs from leading French groups on behalf of Accenture, seeking to define a new model of corporate leadership; the creation of the “Vitamin Water Apartment,” a luxury villa in Paris where VIP guests could discover the Coca-Cola bottled water brand and enjoy unique networking and entertainment; crisis management for Eurostar following suspension of service in the winter of 2010; and the implementation of a new influencer strategy for Electrolux, offering an exceptional culinary in a glass pod on the roof of the Palais de Tokyo, where the city’s movers-and-shakers were invited to dine.
“In less than three years, Elan has led us to take a turn in terms of public relations,” says a client at Electrolux. “We have moved from classic, traditional PR to innovative and efficient new PR strategies. The creativity of the agency, its determination and its ability to adapt to both consumer trends and media agendas are clear advantages.” Adds the firm’s L’Oréal client: “Thanks to Elan, we’ve led our communications teams to implement the ‘storytelling’ method. Elan has been able to share a unique expertise, which has allowed us to move into a new era in terms of our press relations. Applied to our centenary anniversary, storytelling has allowed us to collect a large volume of information about our group and led to these beautiful stories with the international media.”
Elan’s international outlook is one of its defining features. The firm handles several pan-regional assignments, and has developed relationships with other independent agencies around the world that share the firm’s values and vision.