For all 30 years of Sid Lee’s existence, Philippe Meunier has been the agency’s official creative leader—the original co-founder of the agency, then known as Diesel, with Jean-Francois Bouchard back in 1993.
But on Friday, the agency announced Kristian Manchester as its new global chief creative officer, taking over as creative lead for all seven offices and 700 staff worldwide. While he’s handing the creative reins to Manchester, Meunier remains as global CEO.
“I’ve worked alongside Kristian for more than 20 years. He embodies the essence of Sid Lee and has always been a driving force for our culture by pushing our creative edge, which is rooted in bold ideas and big hearts,” said Meunier in a release. “He has heightened our creative product and inspired and raised a generation of talent. I know this appointment will have the impact we’re seeking in this new phase for Sid Lee as we continue to push our creative vision even further forward.”
Manchester joined Sid Lee in 2001, and has been a key creative contributor as the agency built its creative reputation and expanded globally over the rest of that decade and into the early 2010s. He was instrumental in Cirque du Soleil’s worldwide expansion, and worked on Adidas’s “House Party” campaign and Northface’s “Walls are Meant for Climbing.”
While the appointment represents a significant symbolic transition for the agency, appointing someone with as much Sid Lee tenure as Manchester suggests continuity of the agency’s unique culture and creative ethos. It is also a change that has been organically underway for some time.
Speaking with The Message on Friday, Manchester said he’s worked closely with, and been learning from, Meunier for 20 years. “I’ve always actually been in the work, and Phil’s been helping manage everything,” he said. But in the last few years, Manchester has also been taking on more of an executive CD role with offices around the world. “So it kind of feels like a natural next step for me to be sort of orchestrating collaboration between all the different offices.”
As CEO, Meunier has always ensured that exceptional creative is a top priority across the agency, said Manchester. “He’s done a great job… I get to kind of leap off of that and just really elevate the global output.”
While taking over represents a continuation of the Sid Lee model and philosophy, it also comes at a time when the industry continues to face change, he said.
“The world is definitely demanding more agile teams,” he said. “So I think the heavy processes that you might have seen in the past need to evolve to something a little more lean and mean, and have the best people to solve solutions.”
One of top priorities for himself and Sid Lee Canada CEO Martin Gauthier will be to continue to attract the brightest new young talent into the agency.
“The only way to attain diversity—and I’m not just talking gender or race, it’s also diversity of thinking—is by youth bringing that to the table,” he said. Young people are connected to things that more senior or experienced staff might not be aware of. I think the more we make room for youth, the more diverse the offer, and the more interesting the results.”