Committing to Tomorrow’s Leaders

Successful alumni from HEC Paris participate in a photo campaign that asks how business leaders can change the world.

Nine alumni of HEC Paris participated in the school’s “Tomorrow Is Our Business” campaign, including Best Buy’s Hubert Joly.


HEC PARIS IN FRANCE recently launched a brand campaign focused on the school’s commitment to innovation, social responsibility, inclusiveness, and digital transformation. Called “Tomorrow Is Our Business,” the campaign envisions the future through a short film that features current students, and salutes the past through portraits of high-profile alumni who ask provocative questions about business.

“Our goal was to build HEC as a global brand and spotlight what distinguishes it from the pool of business schools while underlining our commitment to training tomorrow’s leaders,” says Philippe Oster, director of communications. The campaign, which was targeted primarily at decision makers and influencers from the business sphere, was designed and implemented by ad agency BETC, which has worked pro bono for the school since 2012. Oster says, “The campaign articulated itself around three adjectives that we believe characterize our school: referent, different, engaged.”


The first part of the campaign aimed to showcase alumni “who are reinventing tomorrow’s business in remarkable ways.” The school created a series of portraits featuring graduates who have founded or are leading companies that are making a decisive impact on business and society. Each portrait is accompanied by a provocative question designed to “address a tension between business and values, or business and societal changes,” says Oster.

For instance, among the portraits is a photograph of Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, who appears alongside the question “What if we made people the future of high-tech?” Another portrait features Christian Kamayou, the founder of MyAfricanStartup, who asks, “What if startups were Africa’s next resources?” An image of Mercedes Erra, founder of BETC, is paired with the query, “What if we strengthened business with women?”

School officials worked with the BETC agency to identify the nine alumni who would best illustrate the spirit of the campaign. All participants were photographed by Pyromanes Officine Créative, who invited subjects to “come as you are” and posed them in their natural surroundings, whether personal or professional. “The aim of the photographers was to provide beautiful lighting and powerful imagery, balanced by a free-spirited attitude,” says Oster.


committing to tomorrow Simo

Facebook’s Fidji Simo was also featured in the HEC Paris campaign.


The questions accompanying each photo were designed to “convey an audacious and unexpected vision of business,” says Oster. Each catchphrase required a great deal of discussion among the participants, school officials, and BETC so that “the most powerful expressions could emerge.”

The second part of the campaign was designed to balance the insights from veteran business leaders with the passions of future leaders. It consisted of a 45-second film featuring three professional actors and a handful of current HEC students. The film was directed by Bertrand Touchard and shot on campus in October 2017.


The film presents a collection of daily scenes from the HEC campus as budding business leaders live up to the school’s motto “Apprendre à oser” (Learn to dare). The short work also offers glimpses of iconic campus sites, including the gym, the library, and the amphitheater. “These scenes are deliberately rendered timeless to let us share the lives of students who will have a positive impact on their working and personal environments,” says Oster. “A voiceover evokes the unexpected journeys many will embark on once they graduate.”

Because the overall “Tomorrow Is Our Business” campaign combines the young students in the film with the seasoned business leaders in the portraits, “it embodies both the new values of today and those which have been the pillars of our school,” says Oster.


The campaign was deployed in concentric circles, says Oster. It was first rolled out to student and alumni communities through social networks, then expanded to the broader public through multiple channels such as digital poster campaigns in high-traffic airports, full-page advertisements in leading economic publications, and online banner headlines on business websites.

“The campaign is also now part of the everyday lives of our students, staff, and professors, as it is present through giant posters in key areas of the campus,” he adds. “We will continue to further deploy it, as it was conceived to last in an evolving manner.”

Oster believes the campaign has boosted the school’s reputation, particularly outside of Europe where HEC Paris isn’t well-known, and it’s also been well-received by stakeholders. He thinks three factors explain its popularity: “the quality of the photos—the mix of force, informality, and frankness that each alumnus displays—and the strength of the messages.” He also believes the overall campaign “incarnates diversity in generations, gender, geography, social backgrounds, and industries where our graduates have had success.”

He has several pieces of advice for any school working on a similar effort. “Be true to what you stand for," Oster says. "Match the mission of the school with the tendencies in society so the message will be understood universally. Make sure the message is embodied by real people who are benchmarks in their fields. And seek a judicious balance in how they reflect the different aspects of today’s world.”


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