How to choose the right agency to work for

Ideas, Awards, Clients, Reputation, Location, Salary? All these things matter but if your aim is to grow as a creative you should look out for another greatly important factor: agency culture.

It's a combination of all things together and beyond. It also takes into account what your expectations and goals are. I think agency culture is crucial for choosing a workplace – yet at the same time agency culture is hard to grasp by being a rather abstract term that's both difficult to define and compare.

Luckily during the Cannes Lions festival 72andSunny held a Masterclass about exactly that topic. They called it 'Company VS Culture'. While most other agencies showed a lot of their own work, 72andSunny instead used their time to talk about agency culture and presented ways on defining and understanding it. For Robbin and me this talk was especially relevant as we're talking to different agencies at the moment and trying to figure out the right next step for ourselves.

Matt Jarvis & John Boiler started their lecture with a strong but simple statement:
'The most important career decision you can make is the culture you choose to grow in.'

A thought that particularly rings true if you're young and starting out as it will define a big part of how you do things later on in your career. Their advice is to look for a culture that doesn't only produce great work but also great people. I guess most of us know deep inside it's more than work that matters, but what Matt & John did here was to break down agency culture into five points and shared simple ways on how to recognize it. The five values they see most relevant to an agencies culture are Collaboration, Generosity, Courage, Accountability and Ambition:

1. Collaboration
If you get into a culture that values collaboration, there's room for you to contribute. Places that value collaboration tend not to be about the person, they tend to be about 'THE BEST IDEA WINS'. This is not about people or ego, it's about the idea. How you recognize it:
  • How are people seated? Departments? Integrated? Floors?
  • Do they assign ideas to people? Groups? The boss? Name on the door?
  • How do they review work? In the open? Corner office? Small/big?
2. Generosity
Is important because your early career should be about learning, not just output. And it takes generosity to teach. A culture of generosity will allow people to explore their own ideas, potential, find their own voice and learn from failure. How you recognize it:
  • Do co-workers celebrate your success as their own? Do they want what you want for yourself?
  • Ask who has grown and developed the most last year. Do they actively think about it?
  • How do they give and share credit?
  • What's the approach to training and education? How do they handle career reviews?
3. Courage
As creative people, you should be wired for courage. You need an organization that stands up for brave ideas, or you will learn fear. How you recognize it:
  • Do you look at their work and ask 'How the hell did they do that?'
  • How many ideas do they bring to a pitch?
  • Have they ever resigned business for a creative or cultural differences?
4. Accountability
A culture of accountability quickly teaches that success or failure matters. Being accountable for the outcome, either positive or negative, is leadership. Be in a culture that shares your definition of success and that teaches you to lead. How you recognize it:
  • Do they embrace metrics? Do set them at all?
  • What is the ultimate win to them? Awards? $$$? Long relationships? Happy clients?
  • What is the compensation structure for clients? For staff? For leaders? What does it reward? Performance? Seniority? Internal political success?
5. Ambition
It's important to understand your personal ambitions and find an agency that shares the same ambitions.  If you're missmatch it's going to be a bad relationship. If you aspire to greatness, attach yourself to an organization that aspires to greatness. How you recognize it:
  • What goals do they aspire to? Success as defined by clients, industry or culture?
  • Do they talk about what they could do better more than what they do well?
  • Do they visibly push themselves?
  • Do they attract 'Challenger' clients and brands?

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For me this is a great check list and toolbox to have in the back of the head when looking into agencies and going on interviews. There might not be a perfect place that has all of these covered but it's important to have them in mind and also to ask yourself which of these of these five are most dear to you.

This whole lecture is quite in line with my learnings at Hyper Island. There I learned that there is great value in thinking about the 'how' side of things not only the work itself. One can be a happier and more effective creative when having certain expectations on your environment, workplace and coworkers and communicating them clearly. I think it all comes down to simply being a more considerate creative, thinking about what you want, what you want to achieve and finding a place that is best suitable for this. Thanks to 72andSunny for sharing their thoughts on this topic and to end on their words:
'Don't pick a company. Pick a culture.'

Interactive Art Directors on internships

Everyone from my class at Hyper Island IAD'10 is now on internship. As a very international class with high ambitions to rule the creative world we set out in different directions across the globe. Here's an overview where everyone is for their internships.

ACNE Advertising, Stockholm
ACNE Production, Stockholm
Åkestam Holst, Stockholm
Britny, Stockholm
Brooklyn Brothers, London
Champagne Valentine, Amsterdam
DDB, Stockholm
Deasign, Stockholm
Doberman, Stockholm
Droga 5, Sydney
Fantasy Interactive, Stockholm
Gray, Gothenburg
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco
Great Works, Barcelona
Great Works, Stockholm
Honesty, Stockholm
Mother, Buenos Aires
Naked, Stockholm
North Kingdom, Stockholm
Perfect Fools, Amsterdam
Recommended, Denmark
SID LEE, Montreal
South, Malmö
STOPP, Stockholm
Strawberry Frog, Amsterdam
Strip Digital, Stockholm
Superheroes, Amsterdam
Syrup, Stockholm
Syrup, New York
Today, Belgium
Tribal DDB, London
VCCP, London
Wieden + Kennedy, Tokyo
Your Majesty, New York

The map above might not be completely correct though, as it's based on Foursquare check-ins.

Portfolio night 8

It's time again for the world's biggest portfolio review event – Portfolio Night round 8. A global event in 37 cities around the world where young creatives get the chance to get feedback on their work from heavyweight creative directors from the advertising industry.

But hey, you probably knew already and bought tickets for it, right? If not, hurry over to and get some for the London event or whatever participating city is nearest to you. It's a great opportunity to show your work!

They've missed out on London last year but this year's line-up of creative directors that you can see with your portfolio looks sweet as honey. Tokyo is not a participating city so I won't have a go at it myself. I'm looking forward to hear about experiences from this upcoming event in may.

Last days of Hyper Island – for now

Friday was the very last scheduled day of Interactive Art Direction 2010 at Hyper Island. After the agency module was completed the class came together once again to reflect on our last months at Hyper Island and to evaluate them. After that we were to share four things in the class:

1. The greatest challenge so far during my time at Hyper Island
2. My greatest insight from my time at Hyper Island
3. One sentence to sum up my feelings about the internship
4. Two feelings right now and here

Many great insights were shared and it turned out quite sentimental as we all realized that the time in our little bubble has come to an end. Now, all of us 54 are about to leaving the school for our internships in different corners around the world. Next up: a list of where everyone's going to.


Tradition has it that every class graduating from Hyper Island creates a promotion site for the class and the students in it. After 3 months of work, that's what we've done last week. We decided we needed a place to be united after running if in different directions of the glove, and the only place would be the cloud. So we've created Cloudania, our very own digital nation. Please visit our nation and tell me what you think:

There was a whole bunch of people involved in this big project, kudos to all of my class mates. My role in this project: I was part of the core team steering the project as well as being part of the concept group. On top Robbin and I were responsible for the intro movie on the landing page.

There are also three great videos created by Kenneth Larsson showing our Cloudanian way:

Robbin Waldemar Portfolio

Together with my creative partner Robbin we've released our new portfolio this weekend:

There are still a few things that need to grow past the beta phase but the essential stuff is up. Please tell us what you think about the portfolio itself and the work featured on it. And if you're happen to look for a creative team for your agency to do an internship this spring, please get in touch at or

Recruiting talent from London

I'm back in Stockholm after a great weekend with Hyper Island in London. After the island2island exhibition on friday being a great success with over 200 visitors the saturday was filled with meeting applicants for next years course. I can't tell much about the process itself as it's best left to surprise when people apply – Hyper Island wants applicants to be rather unprepared. Thanks for W+K for hosting this event and thanks to Hyper Island for letting me be a part of it. Going through the application process from the other side was quite an insightful experience.


Remember my former partner Kristin? She's the one I started this blog with three years ago. She's still doing awesome things in London and just started a new project with her creative partner Nora: Überbuli

It's a duo of a crazy German and an even crazier Hungarian hunting for creative projects in advertising by doing all sorts of things to initiate that. They've got some work up over at carbonmade you might be interested in. They're planning more things in the near future – so stay tuned and join their twitter fellowship if you're curious about the adventures of those girls @uberbuli

Best of Bucks hunt

Last Thursday my former advertising school Bucks New Uni had their annual London graduate exhibition. They had some really great books on show – a vintage year so to speak.

One of my favourite portfolios was created by Alex & Linda, two girls from Austria who have been at Bucks for three years now and just finished the course with a great collection of work. They have a very interesting selection with many packaging and product innovations and a huge range of media.This print campaign that had me laughing at the show was done by Matt & Matt for Gillete, here are two of the posters.
Have a look at the Bucks hunt website to see all creative teams and their work, there are way more goodies in there. Like Sarah & Laura, Sam & Kieran, Fiona & Sarah and many more.

ShelfAward 09

Do you know about the Shelf? It's an UK based award scheme organized by Gary Sharpen & Major Players for young integrated creatives. They set a brief for an integrated advertising campaign to participating universities and choose six teams that go forth to the final – which was yesterday at The Hospital Club. It's a bit like the the through the line alternative to the Cream Exhibition.

I had a look around and found some nice campaigns but in my opinion the work last year was slightly better overall. The Shelf is great thing to get young people out there, but the turn up of creative directors wasn't as impressive as last year – recession? Anyway, the team I favoured won in the end, so well done to Ed & Bryan. The guys do have a website up with their portfolio, have a look at their work if you like.

Life at the bottom

At the agencies we've been in London we met many interesting creatives. They had great stories to tell how they got into the industry and we thought often about it to sit down and record interviews with them to publish on this blog. We didn't have a chance so far as we need to sort out a job first. Saying that there is a fabulous website that just does that. Just recently they interviewed Tom & Selena from Fallon London which especially interesting for all aspiring London creatives. They also talked to teams/single creatives from places including Mother NY, Anomaly and W+K Amsterdam. Check them out at, it's a great read, especially the category Monday Morning Whip should keep you going.

Advice from W+K London

Hope everyone had splendid Easter days. Catching up on my RSS feed I found the a recent post on Wieden+Kennedy's blog. And it's advice for young creatives with a list of book tips from the team in charge of placements, Ben & Sophie. Here they are.

Ben and Sophie’s top 11 book tips.

We decided to write a list of things we’ve learned along the way. This is just what we think, somebody else’s tips might be completely different.

1. Keep it quick. Creatives looking at your book have limited time so make the most of the opportunity. Keep storyboards and radio short and sweet.

2. A balanced book tends to have between 7-9 ad campaigns and a few other creative ideas.

3. Get to the bottom of a brand. Try to find out what makes them different to everyone else and what’s at the heart of their product and their company.

4. Demonstrate different tones of voice. How does this brand talk to people? What’s their personality?

5. Find different ways of talking to people. You don’t always need to conform to the conventional. Logos don’t have to sit in corners. Photos don’t have to be funny. And long copy is not scary.

6. Do more than just press ads. There are many other interesting ways of exploring an idea. What are the appropriate media for your idea? What medium is right for your audience? What will draw people in and surprise them? (TV, press, radio, online, viral, ambient, talking dogs…)

8. Expand at least one of your ideas into a big campaign and prove it’s not just a one off poster or TV ad.

9. We like to find out about you as well as seeing your book. Show us your matchbox collection, the short film that you’re making on the side or your greatest baking success. We see tons of ads, but sometimes it’s these little funny things that sums up who you are.

7. Listen and take notes too. You’d be surprised how many people don’t! Which is annoying to creatives who’ve given up their time to see you.

10. The advertising world is small so don’t piss people off or others might get to hear about it.

11. If you like a particular team, try to go back to them again with more work. Try to build a relationship. This will help you make more contacts, they may recommend you to their advertising friends and colleagues.

And here's link to the whole post.

Visiting creative orchestra

Earlier this week we traveled to visit a new agency here in London called creative orchestra. Several people were chatting about this place in the first few weeks since they opened shop and this made us quite curious. Their office is hidden away in north Islington although full with nice stuff and a bunch of young people, in fact that's what this place is about: Young creative talent. Chris & Victoria, the founders and creative directors, want to assemble a force of 25 juniors from different creative disciplines and offer their services to clients on a project basis and to advertising agencies as an independent creative department. For the talent it means a different way of compensation, the more you accomplish the more you earn.

They have a few briefs floating around the place for interesting brands and seem to be a hive of busy idea bees as they also encourage the youngsters to realize their own ideas and develop original intellectual property. The place seems to have a a good vibe about it, fun is an integral part of their creative process. They pulled off a couple of stunts to introduce themselves to the industry, send aging cream to Mother, wrote a April's fool article on campaign and held a creative session for a day on the circle line.

They do enjoy being called the new Mother by others and had some positive comments from other rock star agencies like Anomaly. We'd say it's a teenage pregnancy so far, we'll have to give them the nine months to see how it works out with the motherhood. We salute their fresh approach which is rather relevant to us and many other young creatives out there. We're curious where it goes and the work to come out of creative orchestra. Maybe we'll even get to contribute.

Wanted Ads retrospective

Friday was the day of the clash of the creative teams. Hosted by the newspaper society in the London Art House the Young team of the Year competition attracted 22 junior teams for a one day brief. It was set by JWT, the client being HSBC and a new product called World Selection. It was all about using local media like newspapers, local websites and events to bring the message across. The day went pretty well, we had a room to ourselves and were way less stressed than last year, which helped a great deal concentrating on the task.
After 5 hours of work we presented our idea to a panel of judges (we had Al Young, Paul Belford and an account manager from JWT on ours), which went pretty alright. Unlike last time we were rather happy with our idea and this competition seemed very close.
Lots of excitement and anticipation before the announcement of the results kept everyone nervous. We knew half of the teams participating and had a great time catching up and chatting during the waiting period and afterwards in the pub.
Joe and Alex spanked it with their winning idea and the runners up were Enrique and Borja, the same guys from last year. A job well done lads. This year the Newspaper Society are doing things a little differently and will be putting up all the work from the day online so the public can have their say. That's going to be really interesting as we didn't get a chance to see the other entries. So lets wait and see what London's junior talent had to offer. Also, there was lots of filming on the day so watch this space and we'll keep you posted about a rumored viral that will be circulating soon. Big thanks to the newspaper society for making all this work, it was a fun and competitive day. Finally a good luck to the boys for the European competition and hopefully on to Cannes from there.

Barclays Waterslide Competition

You might have seen BBH's waterslide ad for Barclays Bank. The digital counterpart to this is a youtube film competition to remake this ad. Friends of mine had a go their entry's called the Body waterslide, it's quite charming. If you agree give them your vote, they'd love to win the price – a world waterslide tour.

Looking through the entries there's another one that I find nice, the 8BIT waterslide version.

Let the games begin

Time for another public service announcement. Like last year the Newspaper Society is searching for the next top young creative team on the 27th of march in the London Art House. It will be judged by Al Young from St.Luke's and it's free to enter. We're definitely on board as we had a great (but stressful) time there and learned a great deal. Conditions of entry are:
Conditions of entry:

(1) You must be in a team of two

(2) You must have 3 years or less agency experience

(3) You must be free to also compete in the Best Yet competition being held in London 7-8 May (expenses covered)

Get in touch with Angelina McGaw on or 020 7632 7446. Last year they were oversubscribed so get a move on if you'd like to compete. We're very much looking forward to it.