Spotlight interview | Candice Smadja

Since 1998, AOC – Attention O Chien – music production and sound design, founded by Candice and Fabrice Smajda, has made a name for itself both in France and internationally. Founded in 2007 by Raphaël Fruchard and Serge Escande, THE is a leader in the advertising industry offering expertise in sound design and sound post-production. Their offering includes My Music Library, a music library comprised of 4,000 of its original works, and also with Engle, an agency and podcast and audio book producer. In early June 2023, THE and AOC merged to become The Dog, an audio production agency taking the French industry by storm.

Candice, what prompted you to open a production company?

My husband, who is also my business partner, is a musician and composer. I joined him after working in marketing. I was very motivated because I’ve believed strongly in the marketing-creation duo. Today, we are 4 partners, with complementary expertise, leading The Dog, an all-star agency and audio production company.

What led to your merger with THE?

Fabrice and I have always had great respect for THE’s work. What unites us is our high standards and sense of craftsmanship, amongst other things. Each of us had our own development ambitions, our own ambitions in digital audio. And we both had gaps. In our initial discussions, we quickly understood the relevance of the complementary nature of THE & AOC. There’s strength in numbers!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Everything about it! I’m incredibly lucky to be in a job where people are passionate about what they do. Every day we’re faced with crazy challenges, and the arrival of AI brings new impetus to our profession.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Pushing our limits and striving for excellence for every single client, is one of our core values. Knowing how to chisel, how to tailor, how to craft, how to give meaning to our creations.

What comes first when you create a brand’s audio identity? The sound or the idea?

The idea, which is a real team effort, is then shaped mainly by Fabrice and Raphaël and the teams, to make the sound identity impactful, unique and memorable. My role is to market the idea to brands.

What does a typical day in your studios consist of?

This is where we have a lot of fun. I don’t think any day is the same! We have rituals and meetings that structure our various activities. Our 18 studios and editing rooms are spread over 3 locations, which means we have to be rigorous in allocating projects and vigilant about team cohesion.

Which project are you most proud of?

When it comes to creative projects, it’s like children: you can’t pick and choose! Today, The Dog is the project I’m most proud of.

What drew you to this professional field?

After working as a “marketer and communicator” in large American groups, where I had a lot of fun, I really wanted to start my own business. Creativity is my booster and I’m an emotional blotter! Music, sound and voice are wonderful vectors of emotion.

Which sectors do you target?

We work with advertising agencies, film productions (advertising/cinema) and brands in all sectors.

Are your processes different in each of these sectors?

Yes, we don’t approach a commercial casting, a book or a podcast in the same way. In advertising, we need excerpts that reflect the emotion of the characters in the advert (dynamic, smiling, etc.), while in an audio book it’s the natural voice that interests us first, as it will embody the book, and at the same time what we’re looking for is the actor’s range, as he’ll be playing several characters.

What is the success of your projects linked to?

We’ve been in the audio production business for almost 30 years, and I believe that success rests on 4 pillars: Passion – Rigor – Creativity – Loyalty.

Is casting an important part of your job?

Absolutely! Nearly half the team cast on a daily basis, but 100% of our staff are aware of and sensitive to voice and casting. Some of them have come and gone because they’re passionate about voices, and have gone into dubbing.

How has Mediartis influenced changes in your internal casting process?

We had been looking for a long time for a solution to casting management dynamics we were facing. We had 3 major challenges:
1/ Creating an updated voice catalog, as we are always searching for new for our clients.
2/ Archiving projects to make more easily accessible for our teams. For the sake of efficiency, I always tell the teams to look for inspiration from past castings. This doesn’t mean that we always propose the same castings – on the contrary!
3/ Be GDPR compliant.

In terms of operations, since we joined Mediartis, we’ve challenged our casting processes and appointed an in-house collaborator who is the lead for data updates and quality, for files and compliance with nomenclatures. These factors have strongly contributed to greater velocity.

Have you already integrated cloud applications into your work processes?

Yes, absolutely. 5 years ago we reviewed all our tools and processes, and every year we challenge these tools and processes with a view to making progress. We use Google Workspace and communicate with Slack, for example. Our job at The Dog is to create and produce, and to help our teams spend less time on prod/admin or organizational management, these tools are great enablers.

AI and computer-generated voices cause a lot of anxiety among actors. Have you experienced this in your studios?

Yes, we often talk about it. It’s a subject that’s as fascinating as it is worrying, and one that we also discuss a lot with the “Les Voix” association. The development of AI, in all fields, is moving fast. From my point of view, we need to analyze the threats and develop the opportunities, as we’ve been doing in the music industry since the 2000s.

Do you feel the GDPR has reinforced your relations with your voice talents?

All our actors are hired on an intermittent basis, so we’re their employers in the same way we are for our permanent staff. In my opinion, this is our responsibility and we need to be just as vigilant in respecting their data as our personnel. When the GDPR was implemented, we consulted our legal firm to understand how to proceed with our talent’s personal data. Mediartis’ solution has saved us huge amounts of time and given us and our talent real peace of mind.

Are you concerned about limiting the circulation of personal data, including your recordings of actors’ voices?

The privilege of experience makes us very sensitive to this! Casting is an expertise that you acquire with time. It’s real creative work, and you need a love of curiosity too. We also like to introduce our customers to new talent. Our casting database is a valuable asset, and we take care not to “distribute” samples, but rather to secure them.

Would you like your partner agents and studios to be on Mediartis too, so that you can integrate their proposals directly into your clients projects?

Oh yes, and we’re telling everyone possible about it!

About The Dog

Relying on a team of 28 talents spread over 3 sites and 18 studios, The Dog is involved in music supervision, soundtrack production for advertising, TV series, cinema, sound identity, adaptation, versioning… but also audio books, native podcasts, bringing its skills in audio marketing.

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