Laurentiu Bancu
Laurentiu Bancu

How Paymo helped a Montreal Agency play with the big boys at the Cannes 2016 Lions Festival

We continue today our series of conversations with Paymo customers with Phoenix the Creative Studio, a marketing agency that specializes in branding, interactive solutions and visual communication in different forms. The company was recently present at Cannes Lions Festival, the biggest creative and design festival in the world, where their “Cannes Survival kit” was a big success. Fouad Mallouk, the company president was kind enough to answer our questions.

Fouad Mallouk

Hey Fouad, tell us a little bit about Phoenix the Creative Studio. When was it founded?

I’ve been in the industry for a little over 18 years and owned 2 agencies prior to Phoenix. In 2014 my two partners and I decided to refresh, rebrand and realign our values. The only way to really achieve this was to start from scratch.


So of course we rebranded. But that was never going to be enough. We really needed to change the path we were on, so we cut loose most of our clients and started challenging the way we worked from A to Z. To say this was a good move would be an understatement, and Phoenix was reborn from the ashes of its predecessor.

At Phoenix The Creative Studio, we think of ourselves as designers of interactions. Because a brand is dead if it’s unable to get people to interact with it. We conceive experiences. We put creativity at the heart of our thinking. And that’s how we generate emotions that move the right people and get the right results.

Phoenix, the creative studio

And how many people do you have working with you? Do you all work in the same office?
As of July 2016, we employ 10 living, breathing bundles of creative energy. We all work in the same open space office. Which is good, because if we worked in closed offices, our creative energy would blow the doors right off their hinges.

What workflow challenges do you face in your daily work routine?
Internal communications, hours spent per project and customer feedback. Slack took care of the first issue, while Paymo handles the rest. The biggest challenge in our industry is customer feedback. Whether working on a large scale project that takes 4-6 months to complete or a single-page website, the customer always needs time and guidance to provide their content. As an agency, were we to work on 10 projects simultaneously without having the proper management tools, you can imagine how disorganized everything would be! Disaster Avoidance 101 means Paymo project management.

Team of Phoenix, the creative studio

We’ve heard you made a huge splash on the Croisette at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity by creating the “Cannes Survival Kit”. Can you tell us a few words about it?
Cannes Lions have always been a popular event, but in recent years it’s been more popular than ever. This means that it’s difficult to stand out there. There’s a lot of noise and options for attendees to choose from, and we wanted to cut through the clutter and reach decision makers at brands and agencies. Since attendees are bombarded with digital outreach, we knew we had to think outside the box. We decided to go old school and create a physical kit, something that people definitely didn’t expect from a technology company. That element of surprise helped get their attention, and the kit’s high-quality reinforced our clients premium positioning, all while playing on the element of nostalgia that makes a huge different in content marketing.

Upon their arrival in Cannes, more than 1,000 agency executives and international creatives received a large presentation-quality box with a visual theme inspired by Mediterranean colors and sailing flags. Inside it were branded items deemed essential for getting through the festival with sanity intact.

All creation and production was done in-house at Phoenix, with the entire team coming together for this high-visibility project that turned heads and cracked smiles throughout the festival.

Cannes Survival Kit

You’ve mentioned already about Paymo. How does it help you in your business?
As I said above, client communication and step-by-step planning is essential for successful delivery of each project. How to avoid having three weeks of intense overtime followed by two weeks of staff playing ping pong while waiting to receive content from the client? Paymo is the answer for us. Since we started using it for our new workflow, it’s not only saved us many hours of project management, it also maintains the right balance between work in production versus work on hold.

And which are the features you love most about Paymo and which are the ones you find the most helpful in your type of business?
I would have to say the project/tasks view. It’s a perfect balance of everything you need to know as an agency owner or project manager without being cluttered with features that would be irrelevant for a small agency of up to 30-40 people. However, we are looking forward to Gantt!

If you could share 3 tips for better project management, what would they be?
The first – Hold a 15-minute meeting with your entire staff right at the start of each day to cover what’s expected of each member of the team and whether any priorities have changed. The second would be to centralize as much information, communication and as many files as possible to avoid back and forth and to keep track of every phase of each project. And the third one – be firm with regard to respecting the production schedule – as much with your team as with the client – to keep that launch on track. And I have one extra: wear a bow tie. It’s like a very subtle whip 🙂

Finally, what do you guys do to take the edge off work?
We have a ping pong table, a pinball machine, and on Fridays at 3pm we usually crack open some beers or uncork a bottle of wine. I have been known to remove my bow tie.

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