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How long have you been at Acne Advertising?
Adam Springfeldt and I founded the agency 10 years ago. I am still working with the agency but these days I work as Managing Partner for the ACNE group which also includes our production and entertainment division.
How did an ad agency emerge out of a fashion and art collective?
It didn’t! Acne started in 1996 as an advertising and design collective. The ambition was then, as well as it is today, to start our own brands and products as well as working with other people’s brands. The fashion label emerged from this. It was one of the projects.
In the early days we did everything under one roof. Graphic design, fashion, internet games, film cameras, synthesizers and a few advertising campaigns. It was quite messy at the time but it created a feeling that anything was possible and I think we still carry that with us. One of the ACNE teams were focusing on advertising campaigns who at the time were in their early twenties. They wanted to challenge the traditional agencies, and so they did.
On the fashion side Acne pulls inspiration from the avant-garde...Is it possible to do this with advertising?
First of all I believe that we are in the business of solving problems and all problems can hardly be solved by avant-garde solutions. However I have experienced quite a few moments where an avant-garde approach actually would make all the difference. So I would say yes, it is possible but you need a client that has the same focus and interest on unexplored territory.
How do you sell that to a client?
Well I don’t think we have ever “sold” it. That might be our secret to coming across. Usually, a great idea doesn’t need much of a selling. It sells itself and the client will recognize it.
How would you describe the agency's mission? How are you guys different from other agencies?
We try to keep it extremely simple and clear. We take out all the BS between the client and the agency that usually destroys a good strategy and Idea. We take a bigger responsibility for our recommendations and we never settle. Never. Our mission is to apply these values and discover how far we can go with the brands we are working with. We have a 100 year business plan so there will be a lot to discover.
We also come from the culture within Acne which means we solve problems and start our own products and brands all the time. This means that a lot of us get first hand experiences with actually doing, albeit small parts, of what our clients are sweating over every day: product and business development, production, distribution, marketing and so on. You don’t usually get this kind of experience in a global agency network for example.
Are there other shops that are on Acne's (Advertising) level? Who's the competition?
There are aspects and moments of agencies such as Droga5, Mother and Kessels Kramer that are agencies that we deeply respect and we believe that we belong to a similar breed and philosophy.
What's next for Acne Advertising?
To increase our international presence and to develop our “Hybrid Offering” where we combine talent from the production and the agency side.
Who in this business inspires you?
Besides my partner Adam Springfeldt who always thinks beyond the bottom line I am more inspired by historical figures. One of them is Mr Leon Nordin who in the sixties revolutionized advertising in our part of the world. He used to complete the creative work during the briefing meeting and send clients home who where not “ready” so to speak.
Today inspiration comes from other businesses and places. The economist Umair Haque who emphasizes building new types of brands and organizations within a new capitalist paradigm; a more constructive and meaningful such. He suggests we should focus on greater purposes than individual gains and that’s what every brand manager and business builder should tap into.
What's an example of a great brand? Why's it special?
I guess Harvard is a brand that I had trouble with earlier. Now that they have opened up internet courses to the masses I think they have showed greatness. Generosity is always special.
A brand is like any other thing you have a relationship with. Just like a human being there needs to be trust, understanding and mutual respet but also change and friction in order to move forward in an enjoyable way. Evolution is key.
Any words to live by?
Well in our world I would say building a brand is building a monopoly.
On another note, working hard and having fun is also something to live by.
When are you guys opening your New York office?
It has always been personal and professional dream of mine. Hopefully we will soon find the right team and opportunity to go ahead and do it.