Welcome to Advertising Utopia
After spending the last few years abroad, working for agencies BBH New York and Mother London, I've just moved back home to Sweden to help set up Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Stockholm. Here's my attempt to condense eight years of experience into 600 words. (I have no idea where this is going but let's find out.)
So what has changed while I've been away? I don't really know, to tell you the truth. Except for a short stint at Forsman & Bodenfors a few years back I've spent my whole career so far abroad. But maybe it takes a different perspective, and a few years in foreign countries, to be able to claim something like this:
Sweden is advertising utopia.
To begin with, there's a massive talent pool here. Some of the world's best production companies were founded in Sweden, B-Reel and Acne being the most obvious examples. It's easy to make your stuff look shiny and beautiful when you're surrounded by talented people. And while Sweden has earned a reputation for being great at digital, we also have a lot of amazing directors – such as Fredrik Bond, Adam Berg, Johan Renck, Jonas Åkerlund and Andreas Nilsson just to name a few.
What else? Oh, the agencies of course. As you probably already know, indie shop Forsman & Bodenfors is number one in the Gunn Report this year. In Sweden it’s considered a large agency while a boutique shop by international standards. But not only the indies are doing well. Even the network agencies keep a high creative standard compared to many of their counterparts. Maybe because there's no big corporate dinosaur here. No Madison Avenue. On the contrary, the biggest shops are actually the most creative ones. For instance, it's not a coincidence that a network agency like DDB produced the Grand Prix-winning 'The Fun Theory'.
So what's the secret?
Size is definitely one factor. (To give you perspective: giants Ogilvy and Grey merged a couple of years ago in Sweden. The new combined Stockholm office is now about... 70 employees.) Naturally there's a lot less hierarchy. Less internal politics. So we've got the advantage of being in a small market while still accessing a talent pool comparable to a big one. And all this contributes towards a very different climate. We can try things on a smaller scale and we can experiment more. We dare to innovate because we can afford to fail. If something doesn't work out, no big deal; no one gets fired. But when it does work out, it'll be as successful as anything coming out of London or New York. (Thank you, Internet.)
As a creative in the US and UK, you know that nine out of ten projects just won't happen. Like magic, they mysteriously dissolve. No one can explain it but everyone has experienced it. And it tends to make people cynical – a very dangerous trait for a creative person. On the other hand, when a project does happen, it can be completely career-changing. There's undeniably something very exciting sitting in a conference room overlooking the NYC skyline and feeling like you're part of something big. Like what you're creating can make a cultural impact and become famous all over the world. And even though it might never happen, there's still the excitement that it could.
Earlier on I wrote that Sweden is advertising utopia. But here's the catch.
Utopia is not a real place. As the rest of the world is complaining about the industry being full of white, male, middle-class hipsters, the issue is even more present in Sweden. There are virtually no foreigners in our industry. CP+B is a bit of an exception with employees from Canada, New Zealand, Greece and the US working in our Gothenburg office. But apart from that, not much. And we need more. More of everything. More diversity. More cultural influences. More philosophers, misfits, guitar players, scientists, problem solvers, artists, rule breakers, weirdos, sword fighters and circus jugglers. People who have a fresh perspective on things and who can truly rewire pop culture on behalf of brands.
So consider this a call to action. Brazilians, South Koreans, Brits, Indians, Germans, Argentinians, Americans, South Africans and Mexicans; want to come over and help us create the ad utopia that doesn't yet exist?
Give us a call.
Henrik Düfke is a creative at Crispin Porter + Bogusky Scandinavia