With a continuous desire to produce strong results for his clients, Speisser was once known for his practice of attaching notes to his work with the title “la substantifique moëlle”—the pith and marrow. These two or three sentences helped Speisser reframe a challenge and acted as a reminder to explore a problem from top to bottom.
Extracting the pith and marrow from Speisser, who was recently elected president of the ADC (an organization that brings together all major design and branding agencies in France), is no small feat. (In fact, this interview was meant to be an hour-long but lasted two, and could easily have gone on for much longer.)
Speisser is playful, full of verve, and swarming with anecdotes. To retrace the course of his career is to embark on a journey. It begins in Strasbourg, where he was born in 1969 as a “pure product of Europe,” raised speaking both French and German. Then on to Morocco where, at the age of 20, he launched an ice cream brand in Tangiers during an internship for his degree in international business. He then moved to Hamburg, where he worked at V+B agency (Euro RSCG, now Havas Worldwide), all the while writing his thesis on the fight against AIDS to conclude his studies at Celsa Paris-Sorbonne.
AIDS prevention is a subject with which Speisser is deeply familiar. In 1993, he volunteered at the AIDS Foundation in San Francisco. This experience led him to the French agency for AIDS prevention, and later to the CFES (the French Committee for Health Education, replaced in 2002 by National institute for Prevention and Health Education), where he co-led the communications department.
“Luc is a very thoughtful, sensitive man who has the ability and desire to understand complex problems,” commented Anne Ramon, his manager at CFES—and a witness at his wedding, along with an anti-tobacco specialist from the same organization.
From Lowe Lintas to Australie and BETC, Speisser eventually became certain that “advertising isn’t everything, it cannot do everything.” At Landor, he finds that the culture of branding speaks to his soul as a seeker and investigator. Speisser noted, “For example, I found out how complex subjects like brand architecture are. It’s not just about designing a bunch of logos. It’s about people, understanding people.” He continued, “What excites me about design is that it requires both the left and the right brain.”
This duality in Speisser’s own way of thinking was highlighted by his client Blandine Ruty, vice president of commercial image and brand development at Total Marketing & Services: “He is simultaneously very empathetic, attentive, and very pragmatic.” Xavier Real del Sarte, CEO of Young & Rubicam (like Landor, also a member of WPP), describes Speisser as “a very human man, very sharp, and also very forthright.”
Forthright, indeed. Before even being asked, Speisser spontaneously rattled off a list of his faults: “I am impatient, demanding, and annoying, though I always try to be fair.”
Forthright and exhaustive, always.
This piece was originally published as “Luc Speisser, Au Fond Des Choses” by Delphine Le Goff in Stratégies N°1895 (14 March 2017). Republished with permission.