Directing powerhouse Traktor on how to tickle the timeless funny bone

After signing to Stink and scooping up the biggest industry awards this year, filmmaking collective Traktor tells Brittaney Kiefer how to make comedy that stands the test of time.

Traktor: the most awarded directors of the past decade
Traktor: the most awarded directors of the past decade

Over the past decade the Scandinavian filmmaking collective Traktor has become the most award-winning directors in the world. From Miller Lite’s evil beaver to Three’s singing kitty, the collective is known for making comedy that transcends time and geography to capture moments in culture – most recently with Tide’s Cannes Grand Prix-winning "It’s a Tide ad" from the 2018 Super Bowl. 

After splitting with Rattling Stick and signing a global deal with Stink, Traktor tells Campaign how to be funny, why they gravitate towards certain projects, and what the future of advertising will look like (it’s nothing like you might expect).

What is it about Stink's approach that made you move production companies? 

We get scripts from all over the world and, because we are a group, we really like the idea of being huddled together under one global roof, nursing a sweet sweet cup of Horlicks, energising us for the Uber to the airport. 

Stink have a fantastic structure that makes us feel supported and well managed across the bountiful borderless borders of TastyTown. 

Daniel Bergman is delightfully bonkers, but he knows what’s going on. And it is going on!

People talk a lot about how advertising isn't as good as it used to be. Do you agree? Are you worried at all about the state of the industry?

We do not worry. Impact, emotion, laughter and frottage are all platform independent and future proof. Overthink about it this way: goose bumps and nausea both come in waves. The trick is to swim in the frothy parts. Wooosh! 

What's the first question you ask before starting a new project? What kind of scripts do you gravitate towards? 

We look for a solid core idea that can inform and inspire the multitude of decisions that will invariably need to be made. And we look for heart. Always heart. Life should be warm, and the same goes for commercials. A gleam in the eye and a hoist in the pantaloons. There. That’s better

Five years from now, do you still want to be directing ads? What will that look like?

We get asked this good question every five years since the final stained champagne glass shattered at our very first Cannes party. And the answer is a resounding yes! It will look like a sugary little Troll pole dancing across your box-fresh transparent Apple display, picking up likes and diplomas as it goes. Go, Troll, go!

For new directors, would you tell them to work in advertising? What do you wish you knew when you were starting out?

We often whisper to ourselves that directing commercials is the best job in the world. But a word of warning to the young is that the feedback loop of pitching, treating, talking and shimmying on the shoot is not necessarily as instant and dopamine-riddled as their phones have gotten them accustomed to. Putting in the hours and playing the game may gradually have become a forgotten art. But that’s to our advantage, so don’t tell anyone. 

We are glad we knew nothing when we started out. Moving six families to Los Angeles with no money in the bank and no credit history is not the kind of move you make when you actually know how the world is supposed to work. It was 1998, and we had an Energizer Bunny to chase. With Harris Savides. See you at the Hertz counter mother-funsters!

Have brands and agencies forgotten how to be funny? 

No.

What's the difference between pretty good comedy and comedy that will stand the test of time?

Tough question. Maybe by tickling the timeless funny bone and not being too caught up in the latest comedy trends? We have a principle we refer to sometimes to let the work be funny from the inside out and let the goodness seep from within, with its own twisted logic, rather than be derivative of something else on the cultural horizon. Actually we just made that up, but maybe it sounds about right?

What do you wish clients and agencies knew about your job? 

As little as possible. The Emperor’s New Clothing for Spring 2019 just arrived and it’s a sizzling collection! 

As a collective, how do you make sure that the work you produce has one voice?

Because it does. Each project is very much captained by one director. Once the process is up and running, it feels no different to the agency and client. Other than perhaps a tiny bit better? The difference is that the director in charge will have had a strong internal quality control and inspirational support from the script stage onwards. We’ve been together so long that improvements happen by osmosis. And caffeine. Want some?

Is this a Tide ad?

Thankfully, yes.