Le Duo Dynamique

Having conquered Paris, then London, Fred & Farid come to America. And they only packed one ego.

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"By working together for such a long time, you lose your ego," says Fred Raillard (left). "We have no ego. We don't compete against each other."
Fred Raillard and Farid Mokart, the French creative stars who recently crossed the Atlantic to join Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, share many things: ambition, an e-mail address and a distinctly intellectual enthusiasm for advertising. Talking to them, one senses that they might even share a brain, an idea they encouraged recently as they tried to convince this writer to use their quotes interchangeably, attributing them all to "Fred & Farid." "By working together for such a long time, you lose your ego," one of them says. (OK, it was Fred.) "We have no ego. We don't compete against each other."

As Jeff Goodby observes, however, the pair have something like a "collective ego" that has driven them to a half dozen agencies and three countries in five years, collecting five Cannes Lions along the way.

"One of our priorities was to crack as many different product categories as possible," Fred says. "The second was to do international work as soon as possible." It's hard to imagine now -- after the splash they've made on the creative scene -- that five years ago Raillard, 31, and Mokart, 34, were in the account department at Euro RSCG/Paris, the former as a planner, the latter as an account manager. When they decided to jump the creative wall as a copywriting team, they made a tour of Paris, first moving to TBWA, then to BDDP, Publicis, Leo Burnett and CLM/BBDO, before crossing the Channel last year to join BBH/London. Then they spearheaded Gold Lion-winning work for Microsoft's Xbox and the recent "Rub Yourself" campaign for Levi's, which is unlikely to go Lionless in 2003. After that kind of year, where else to go but West? "Coming to the United States is a way to improve ourselves," Farid observes. "The United States was the perfect place to come after London."

Goodby, Silverstein came across the duo last year while scouting London with an eye toward possibly opening a European office, Goodby explains. "At Cannes, I talked to them a little more and got to know them. It was sort of a process of getting comfortable, and finding out whether our creative department would enjoy having such a radical gang show up." The pair arrive as the agency makes a concerted effort to expand its repertoire, to get away from what Goodby calls the "gags with tags" formula that has made it so successful. "We've gotten famous doing a certain sort of thing, and there's nothing wrong with doing a different sort of a thing for a while," he says. As for what that sort of thing might be, Goodby points to the agency's recent "Sheet Metal" spot for Saturn, which is conceptual, witty and even poignant, but never laugh-out-loud funny. "We're looking for a more complex kind of experience than wondering what's going to happen to the guy on the bike when he hits the oil slick."

Fred & Farid -- who are currently brainstorming on Budweiser and Hewlett-Packard -- have no shortage of ideas, according to Goodby. "What they tend to do is come in with 75 to 80 ideas and you have to machete about 60 of them. They start with a really wide range of stuff." But how long will the restless Parisians stick around? "We were born in a museum," says Fred. "Paris is like a museum. But sometimes you want to have the feeling that there is room for reinventing things and that's the way we perceive the United States. Everything is interesting to us here. The cultural gap is so enormous, we have the feeling that we'll be here at Goodby for a really long time." How long that is, only two people -- and one brain -- know.

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