Why an advertising agency chooses to marry culture, community and industry

Pantin, France – 'While we are discussing future lifestyles at cultural events, I think it would be nonsensical to exclude companies that are major players in our economy and industry,’ said creative director and curator Kenya Hara when we interviewed him for Frame 113. 'Some people are wary of involving commercial partners. They don’t want to risk making the exhibition too much of a branding showcase. But in the end, when it comes to future living we will need commercial enterprises to realize our ideas.’

He shares this opinion with Eugénie Lefebvre, general manager of Magasins Généraux, a centre for creative arts initiated and run by French advertising firm BETC.

Partnering up is both a necessity and an asset

Lefebvre is aware she is in quite a unique position. ‘Openly collaborating with brands is a freedom I can permit because I’m an extension of an advertising agency. I don’t deal with the same complexities many museums do. In France especially, public cultural institutions don’t like to talk about accepting private money. Even though almost all need to, they don’t feel at ease with it. For me partnering up it’s both a necessity and an asset. Even though BETC invest in Magasins Généraux and two in-house creative directors were appointed, it’s not a foundation and I have to finance my projects by external parties. But I see that as a bonus. Our aim is to develop a cultural programme that’s connected to society and, to achieve that, connecting with today’s most relevant brands is key.’

For the centre’s second cultural season, a partnership with Tinder was realized with the theme Futures of Love. To Lefebvre, it's important that such brands don’t function solely as a sponsor, but actively contribute. Hence why Tinder started an arts residency under their brand claim 'Single, Not Sorry,' for which they tasked three creatives to share their vision on being single in a digital age.


Lefebvre believes curating and producing such exhibitions as Futures of Love fits with the DNA of BETC. ‘Culture is at our core,’ she says. 'We like to go beyond the normal frontiers of advertising. We created city guides for Louis Vuitton, started a radio station and music label, and help a lot of big cultural brands such as Palais de Tokyo to position themselves. We sometimes even create advertising for them for free, because we are really engaged in making them better known with the general public.’

Reaching that public is the aim of Magasins Généraux, too. Housed in a 20,000-sq-m former flour and grain warehouse in Pantin – completely transformed by architect Frédéric Jung – the creative hub accommodates BETC’s 900 co-workers as well as other creative parties such as Artagon and Le Poste général.

With Magasins Généraux, founding resident BETC follows the concept of the porous office. The building’s ground floor is completely open to the public, who are invited to use it as a passageway to the Canal de l’Ourcq or to visit creative event space La Grande Salle and concert venue-cum-restaurant Le Docks. 'Neighbours can have a drink, share a meal, shop, stroll, run and cycle along the canal, attend a workshop or exhibition, relax in the outdoor spaces and see live music,’ explains Lefebvre. 'Magasins Généraux is an example of forward-thinking urban engineering that fuses community, culture and industry to create the agency of the future.'


Location 1 Rue de l'Ancien Canal, 93500 Pantin, France

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