Close-Up: Profile - Why the UK ad industry will be glad Bond is back

As he launches his own company, Fredrik Bond tells James Hamilton why he wants to be part of the London scene again.

Just talking to Fredrik Bond is exhausting. Even though it's barely 5.00am and he's on his way to an early call for a shoot, he chatters like a machine-gun. About films, TV and advertising; about weak US coffee; and about his new production company, Sonny. It's hard to keep up.

Ask anyone who's worked with him and they'll tell you this is normal. Bond's defining characteristics are his energy and passion. After a gruelling six-day shoot in the California desert for the 3 "jellyfish" ad with WCRS, most of the crew wanted to slink back to the hotel for a sleep. Not Bond, though: he brought in a DJ and a sound system and proceeded to dance like a dervish for two hours while the bemused and tired agency staff looked on in admiration.

His passion for 30-second spots is evident in his reel - there's the Mother-penned West Side Story homage for Super Noodles; his "demon baby" Volkswagen Lupo spot for DDB; for Saatchi & Saatchi; Skoda for Fallon.

It's also there in the way he describes his craft and his hunt for the perfect script. That search finds him returning to London this month following an extended period living and directing, for the most part, in Los Angeles.

Feted by creatives and his peers as one of the best directors of his generation, Bond famously upset the apple-cart in the UK when he defected from the now-defunct Harry Nash to MJZ in 2002 for a reputed six-figure fee.

The move saw him take pride of place in MJZ's London roster, although, ultimately, he was rarely to direct here. Three years ago, he relocated to Los Angeles permanently, and has directed the majority of his ads for US agencies.

But Bond is back, as the cinema saying goes. He's split with MJZ in London and, in his new venture, has teamed up with his former producer at Harry Nash, the Gorgeous executive producer, Helen Kenny.

In Sonny, the pair aim to make sure Bond's name is front of mind at agencies accustomed to hearing that, while he would no doubt be interested in the script, Bond is, unfortunately, tied up shooting in LA.

That's not to say Bond hasn't had a presence here, but his UK ads have been few and far between - a trio of high-profile love-them-or-loathe-them ads for 3 starring musical jellyfish, Japanese cowboys, singing cherry buns and big-handed milk maids; and an innovative, if a little self-indulgent, spot for Smirnoff which told three different versions of a story using judicious edits to echo the vodka's distillation process.

Bond's aim for Sonny is simple: he wants to make the best work. And for him, that means returning to London and working with Kenny, his favourite producer. "Helen and I have always loved working together and have always talked about launching a production company. Now feels like the right moment."

"I love the way the industry works in London," he continues. "When I started out I was running all over the place in Soho - it's a much more interactive process filming in the UK. It's very different from the way of working in the US, where you end up doing most of your stuff over the internet," he says, adding that he misses the kind of relationships he enjoyed with WCRS on the 3 ads (originally, the agency wanted a different director for each spot, but ended up doing three with Bond).

"That was a very special campaign. I hope we can spark a little bit of that inspiration with this company to do stuff like that."

Bond has signalled his commitment to London by moving his family back to Europe (he hasn't decided where, exactly, yet). But that's not to say he won't be making trips back across the Atlantic to play his regular game of netball with the Swedish directing collective Traktor on Venice Beach, and, of course, shoot the odd ad in the US. "In all honesty, I want to do the best possible work. Wherever those scripts are, that's where I'll be doing them," he says.

There are cynics in the production industry in London who say he'll still be doing the majority of them in the US. They argue that the MJZ co-founder David Zander will dangle scripts in front of Bond that he'll find impossible to turn down in an attempt to spoil what MJZ will no doubt view as serious competition for its London office.

Kenny is resolute that Bond will have a much bigger presence here, though, and is adamant that Sonny has the blessing of both Zander and his UK office executive producer, Debbie Turner.

"I think it's a shame Fredrik has been absent from the London market," she says. "He recognises that and that's why we're doing it. He's pitching his tent here and saying that he's back. He recognises the talent here and wants to be part of it," Kenny says.

"David may send me lots of good scripts, but I'm at a place where I want to be part of the London scene again," Bond adds.

Will he have to embark on a charm offensive to convince agencies to use him again? The Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R executive creative director, Ben Priest, thinks not. Priest worked with him on a Land Rover shoot, and echoes TV producers and creatives across London in his praise for Bond. "I don't think he needs to build goodwill. There are very few people that operate at his level: he does so many things - from comedy to sweeping beauty. Great agencies don't have a house style, neither do great directors," Priest says.

Bond's appeal to creatives stems from his boundless imagination and that energy that, at 36, still means he bounces round the room with the exuberance of a puppy.

He's also got that faint whiff of obsession - although not in a bad sense, Priest stresses. "All the best people are as fussy about the smallest things as they are about the overall picture," he says.

Perhaps it stems from Bond's formative teenage years - he was, he admits, a film buff with upwards of 6,000 pirated movies he kept in a basement, along with a notebook in which he logged and cross-referenced directors and actors.

Bond acknowledges there'll be differences to adjust to coming back to the UK. There's the new demand for internet content that he didn't have to cater for before. But the chance to work more collaboratively with creatives is too good to ignore. "Plus, Zilli Cafe does the best coffee in the world," he says.



After the ill-fated merger of his production company, Spectre, with Stark Films to create Large, Danny Kleinman went back to basics and launched Kleinman Productions. Now partnered with Ringan Ledwidge under the name Rattling Stick, he is enjoying being a master of his own destiny again.

"One of the best things about it is not having to do something at someone else's behest," he says, but cautions: "It's not as easy as it seems doing your own thing. I'm not a businessman; very few directors are. It's hard to keep the financial side of things under control."


Mark Denton moved into directing commercials after being fired from his own agency.

He then worked at a number of production companies before deciding to join forces with Malcolm Venville and relaunching Venville's company Therapy Films.

"Here we are four years later and we've got 12 directors and are doing loads of interesting things," Denton says.

"I don't know why I didn't do it a lot earlier," he says. "I guess it was because I was scared. I recommend it to anyone now - as long as they've got the required talent and energy to make it work."


The former Lowe London and M&C Saatchi creative director began his directing career in 1996 at Blink.

He joined Godman in 1998, where he met his wife and business partner, Philippa Thomas. Together, the pair established Thomas Thomas in 2000.

"The great thing about opening your own company is that you get to choose what kind of company it will be. You can hire lots of talent and grow quickly, or keep it small like we did. Making those decisions is interesting and fun, and something you are not involved in if you are simply a director at a production company."