CEOs Tove Langseth and Jacob Sandström share their moves to rocking fresh creative

Lemon2020

IT TAKES TWO TO MAKE A THING GO RIGHT

In October 2016 creative director Tove Langseth and business director Jacob Sandström took over DDB Stockholm in a shared CEO role. Both had been key to the development of the agency for many years and the move was a natural evolution for the Stockholm office with its history of strong business insights and creative culture. Their latest work continues to be at the forefront of melding creativity, humanity and technology to produce breakthrough ideas. We asked Tove and Jacob about their shared role and how this impacts the inner workings of the agency and the work DDB Stockholm creates for its clients.

So tell us the truth, how do you make this joint CEO role work? Who does the math and who takes the teams out to the club? Do the lines of business and creative ever cross?

Tove Langseth: I guess people find it typical Swedish to share a CEO-role. And we do really share it. From the beginning we had the idea to split up everything quite strict between us, but we often end up discussing most issues together. Which means that even though Jacob naturally is in the driving seat when it comes to money, and I when it comes to the creative stuff, we do bounce most things between us.

Jacob Sandström: I guess we’re much more the same than we thought. Which is good because we trust each other’s decisions when both of us aren’t around. Taking teams out to the club? We both need to shape up there – none of us drink alcohol for God’s sake!

Bernbach felt the environment of the agency was fundamental to great work. “There’s a relationship between the management and the creative person that just can’t be ignored.” How would you say that is reflected at DDB Stockholm today? How does it compare to the early years when it was Paradiset DDB?

JS: To us it’s fundamental that the people at the agency share the same vision, that everyone is interested and contributes to the creative product. We have a saying that is “Creativity in everything” which means that not only the creatives should wave the flag of creativity but everyone, from the guys at reception to a planner working with insights. This mindset is of course extremely important when it comes to the ones leading the agency, that’s where the creativity must start. The group leading the agency really has that belief in common, even though we might go into things with different perspectives.

TL: When I started at Paradiset that was definitely the feeling in the company. Creativity was so natural as two of three leaders were actually creatives. However, today creativity is something much wider and the agency is much more complex in that sense. Creativity is not only communication but also design, digital, PR, media, etc. That makes it even more important to always look at things from a creative perspective. In the end, that’s how we differentiate ourselves from for example a web agency; we always put a creative layer to things.

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Learn the Power of the Dark Side

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Chocolate ball takes on the Trump administration

In a time where many brands try to take a stand with big budget 90 second films about diversity shot in 30 fps, Swedish cake maker Delicato made an impact with a .jpeg featuring a lying chocolate ball. After the White House went into total bizarro mode with Kellyanne Conway’s comment about using “alternative facts” to support the lie that Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd was the biggest in American history, Swedish cake maker Delicato quickly posted an ad on Facebook making fun of the bizarre post-truth movement: just days before Conway’s legendary claim, Sweden passed 10 million citizens. The ad quickly went viral on Facebook and the print ad ran in FOKUS, the Swedish equivalent of TIME Magazine, the same week.

From annoying advertising people hate to delicate advertising people loved

DDB Stockholm’s first communication for new client Elkjøp, the largest electronics retailer in Scandinavia, set out to create a new brand journey with their Christmas campaign. Most northern folks are known for being timid and quiet. So instead of screaming the price of a 4K TV or shouting about the amazing deal on PlayStation 4, they encouraged people to add meaning to their Christmas gifts. Because things can say things too. Important stuff, that some of us might find difficult to say out loud.

Everything is Awesome

Hairmet helmets is a new brand of bicycle helmets founded by DDB Stockholm creative Simon Higby and Clara Prior of DDB Copenhagen. Born out of Simon’s thesis at the Berlin School of Creative Leadership on accidental start-ups (creating start-ups based on old ad campaigns), Hairmet helmets is a spin-off of DDB Stockholm’s previous Fun Theory campaign for Volkswagen and its concept that if you make something fun, more people will do it. Unlike traditional, uncool bike helmets, Hairmet helmets look like toy hairstyles and allow kids to become a life size version of their favorite toy characters. Launched online, it is now backed by one of the UK largest manufacturers and is in the final development stage at their factory. It is not made in conjunction with or endorsed by Lego or any other brand – it is a pure start–up product aimed at improving child safety. You should be able to buy a Hairmet helmet soon.
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It’s more about making things people want than making people want things

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Smoooth operator

Klarna is one of the leading (and fastest growing) online payment companies in Europe. DDB Stockholm became their agency in early 2016 and was tasked to transform the perception of Klarna from a B2B-orientated provider of e-commerce payment solutions to a consumer brand. They took Klarna from a technical and boring service to part of the emotional shopping experience. The campaign was one of the most talked about of the year and changed the image of what a payment service can be, setting a new standard for the whole industry to live up to.

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Today’s passive lifestyle leads to poor health and a poorer quality of life. And this was also affecting the Swedish Armed Forces. New recruits no longer meet the same standards as their predecessors, with many recruits dropping out early due to poor health. But The Swedish Armed Forces has been a training expert for hundreds of years and DDB Stockholm decided to re-launch the SAF’s training philosophy in a modern way. They created a complete, easily accessible and intuitive training tool for everyone that went on to become the third largest training club in all of Sweden.

Gender Equality: Start to Walk the Talk

Post-truth may have been the word of 2016, but for those of us in advertising, it was the year we had to be honest with ourselves. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the sexism and lack of diversity that permeate our industry. We cannot shrug off gender inequality as a cultural problem or try to alleviate our guilt with panel discussions and culture days. For an industry so dependent on its talent and its ability to connect with people, remaining idle on these issues is not only shameful – it’s stupid.

To be honest, I never feel I’m qualified to speak out about gender inequality. I’m certainly not perfect. But that’s just the point. It’s not a comfortable topic, particularly for us men. We have to be willing to admit our own unconscious bias – and maybe even some conscious ones – if we really want and believe in change.

I’ve always felt lucky to be working at DDB and to have a legacy to reflect on when questioning the way forward or when needing to find the courage of my convictions. It’s no surprise there was plenty of inspiration to pull from here, too. There is no better case study of the value of a diverse creative department than DDB’s. No bar graphs or revenue growth charts could ever map out what that mixed bag of streetwise creatives delivered.

Remember those guys who wrote “Why try harder?” for Avis, “You don’t have to be Jewish” for Levy’s, and came up with the ballsy “Lemon” headline for VW? Well, they were all female copywriters.

Of course, no woman was more of a pioneer than DDB’s longtime VP, Phyllis Robinson, who was our agency’s first copy chief as well as the first female copy chief in U.S. history. If Bill Bernbach can be called the father of modern advertising, Phyllis was most certainly our mother.

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