Close-Up: Newsmaker - Craik Jones turns to Sweden for digital direction

The agency has tapped into a rich online heritage and made Jonas Lembke its executive creative director.

Sweden, as we know, is the home of Abba and flat-pack furniture, but, according to Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel, it's also the global hotbed for digital creative talent.

Last week, the agency appointed Jonas Lembke, the creative director and partner at the Stockholm-based Otto, to the new role of executive creative director.

It seems Craik Jones is embarking on a structural rethink. By hiring Lembke, it has opted for an individual whose digital credentials are sharp. The agency is attempting to embrace digital fully, which is rapidly emerging as the Holy Grail of one-to-one marketing.

It's a brave signing. Not only is Lembke something of an unknown, but he comes in above Craik Jones' three existing creative heads.

"Hiring Lembke was certainly not a comment on the talent of the creative team," the managing director, Fiona Scott, says. "We wanted to bring someone in who'd take an holistic view across the breadth of our creative work and help us exploit digital to its full potential."

This is the first time the agency has opted for an executive creative director. Its chief executive, David Watson, explains why: "Jonas is very entrepreneurial and he'll be an excellent ambassador with a much more external focus. He'll be able to discuss business problems with the client at a senior level."

Their desire to get digital is palpable. Both agree that Sweden is light years ahead of the UK in terms of digital creativity and that Lembke brings ample experience in providing clients with multi-channel solutions. "Up to 80 per cent of direct marketing in Sweden has been replaced by digital," Lembke says. "It has become the natural meeting place to talk to consumers."

Lembke began his advertising career at Sweden's largest business-to-business agency, Sandberg & Co. In 1999, he was handpicked by Stefan Skoog, the head of BBDO Sweden, to join Otto, then a new below-the-line agency, with aspirations among the staff to turn it into a fully integrated shop.

"I jumped at the chance to get people from all media backgrounds to solve marketing problems regardless of media channels," Lembke says. "I wanted to escape the situation where those from traditional advertising backgrounds weren't excited about the prospects of the internet."

Lembke does not seem to have had to agonise about leaving behind the agency he helped nurture. His frustrations with a top-down culture and the small scale of the Swedish market made Craik Jones' offer of being part of the central decision-making process irresistible.

"Opportunities like this don't come along very often," Lembke says. "I hope this will be a positive thing for Otto as well. I put seven years into the agency and I'm very proud of the things we've done."

The big challenge for Lembke in his new role will be to help Craik Jones merge its traditional DM tools with digital solutions. He says: "They aren't miles away from each other, it's just about broadening the canvas and making people comfortable about taking their ideas across different channels."

Ultimately, his appointment reflects a wider change in the industry, and as Lembke explains: "It is a clear sign digital is not just a trend. Consumers are changing their behaviour - we need to follow them."

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