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Ideation to execution is shorter today: Forsman & Bodenfors' Akesson

MUMBAI: Coming up with creative work once in a while is good advertising but doing creative work consistently is great advertising!

It takes hours of labour, thinking and several approvals back and forth within the agency before a creative is given the thumbs up to be shown to the client and this hierarchy may often lead to employees feeling a little demotivated and unsure about their ideas and creativity. But there is one agency that will turn around the entire concept of advertising on its head for you - Forsman & Bodenfors (F&B). The Swedish agency has its head office in Sweden’s second-largest city, Gothenburg. Even if you’ve never heard of the company, you might still be among the 88 million people who have seen the Volvo Trucks – The Epic Split ad featuring Van Damme.

F&B is a place where there are no directors and heads. Far from getting sunk in the chaos, the agency has proven to be one of the most awarded independent creative hubs around the world. The agency is famous for its world-renowned and highly acclaimed campaigns such as Volvo Trucks – The Epic Split and Nike #Breaking2. The key to its success and high level of creative quality is responsibility with zero prestige. Talking about the agency’s unique functioning, F&B art director Samuel Akesson simply says, “What we do is ‘human’ mostly. Perhaps, there’s a lack of humanity in advertising, which is why sometimes advertising is bad at making people feel anything.”

Fed up with the hierarchy and old-fashioned system in organisations, Akesson wanted to spin a revolution. He did just that by moving to Sweden and has stuck to F&B for nine years. With experience of more than 20 years in the advertising industry, Akesson is considered among the best creative heads in the advertising world today. spoke to him on the sidelines of Goafest 2018 where he opened up about the company and the industry in general. He believes that the three pillars that make F&B an award-winning and successful agency are: responsibility, trust and courage. As there is no hierarchy, everyone is responsible for the work they do which gives a strong sense of freedom as well as ownership. He adds, “Very often we have experienced failure and mishaps. But, in this structure of work, you feel like a part of a strong community. We face such situations together which makes us feel stronger.”

The best ads are made when clients give companies a free rein. Not a single client has said this to him yet and most look for a joint collaborative vision which is also the ideal choice of a company.

Since the company follows a non-hierarchy model, talent acquisition and retention is a herculean task. He says, “I think there is allure from different parts of business nowadays. 10 years ago, a career in advertising seemed like a very relevant route whereas it has changed a lot today. A lot of people that have moved away from advertising go into different technology industries like Facebook, Google and so on.”

With the rise in agencies, client retention is another challenge. Akesson mentions that the scenario has worsened in the last few years with specialised agencies opening shops and working on project basis rather than having a retainer model. It can be frustrating as there is a trade-off between clients with a long relationship or many clients and a one hit wonder.

An age-old conversation in the advertising industry has been whether business is killing creativity but Akesson seems to think otherwise and is rather optimistic because the journey from having an idea to people seeing the idea is much shorter now and it is easy to publish these ideas on digital platforms.

While everyone seems to be talking about big data, augmented reality, virtual reality and other technologies and how they will become indispensable for advertising in future, Akesson makes an interesting point that these technical tools help us but sometimes, they lead us to disorientation and take the focus away from what agencies should be doing - engaging people. He says, “I’m not super enthusiastic and interested in these technologies as they are just tools that are used for specific purposes. What agencies need is to be secure in the story they want to tell, and how they think people will react when they do something.”

Influencer marketing is likely to be the trendy 2018 topic. With the industry backing it, Akesson says that the idea has even become silly at times. Brands can use it to some extent but the unnecessary hype is a little ridiculous.

F&B’s agenda for 2019 is expanding beyond traditional advertising to include how the CEO speaks in an interview to the look of a poster in the street. “We as communication consultants can figure out a journey and story for that brand to tell and do that in loads of different ways. The future of advertising is to dissolve advertising and talk about different ways of interacting with people instead,” he concludes.

Here’s a list of some iconic work by Forsman & Bodenfors:

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