WORLD: Analysis - Linus and Paul: the creatives leading Mother into New York

The two Swedes' quirky wit is behind the agency's US venture. Glen Mutel reports.

Anyone expecting Linus Karlsson and Paul Malmstrom to be an archetypal foreign creative team will be in for a bit of a disappointment.

Mother New York's newly signed creative partners, dubbed "The Swedes" by the American trade press, are responsible for some of the funniest, most unusual US commercials in recent years.

But they're not as wacky as their output suggests. They don't indulge journalists with ludicrous quotations, Traktor-style. Nor are they reluctant to discuss what they do. Behind the seemingly effortless humour are two dedicated, loyal, private individuals who take their trade extremely seriously.

Not that they don't have their eccentricities. They prefer to be quoted as a single entity. Having spent the past 13 years working together, they clearly trust each other with the press as much as they do with clients or briefs.

The partnership began in the early 90s at Stockholm's Paradiset DDB.

Six-and-a-half years later, Linus and Paul were spotted by Fallon's then president and creative director, Bill Westbrook, and whisked away to Minneapolis.

It wasn't long before Fallon awoke to the potential of its new team, and by the end of their six-year stint in Minneapolis, Linus and Paul were being sent out on troubleshooting missions to several of the network's key outposts.

The pair spent the final eight months at Fallon's New York office. Having had a taste of the Big Apple, Linus and Paul will now team up with the former Red Cell executive Andrew Deitchman for a real challenge - to convince US clients that the fledgling foreign venture of an independent UK agency can do a better job for them than Madison Avenue's finest.

If Bartle Bogle Hegarty New York's example is anything to go by, this may take years. "We know it's going to be hard," the pair say. "But we know the culture. We're not fresh off the boat. Plus, we have one of the most loyal track records in the industry. We spent 6.7 years at Paradiset and 6.8 at Fallon."

Will it be 6.9 at Mother? "It's going to be longer. This is our creation. We're not just switching to another ad agency."

This commitment will be music to the Mother partner Mark Waites' ears.

The agency's co-founder has been a fan of the two for years, and is adamant that they share Mother's creative philosophy.

"We both have an absolute faith in the fact that we can do our jobs in an interesting way," he explains. "Linus and Paul realise that you have got a contract with your audience. If you make your work engaging and interesting, they'll reward you with their attention."

It's hard not to reward a Linus and Paul ad with your attention. The duo's reel is littered with the bizarre and memorable. Take the infamous Jukka Brothers - three MTV-loving hillbillies who ritually spank their uncool fourth sibling. Then there's the character from the Virgin Mobile ads who, having been ejected from a giant, suspended womb, walks around inadvertently covering everyone he meets in amniotic fluid.

"Advertising is something intrusive," Linus and Paul explain. "It's something that cuts off a good story on TV. It's like a guy on a bus with really bad breath - you just want him to pass you by. But if we can get people not only to like this guy but also talk to him, we have done our job. So we've always tried to ensure that little moment between programmes is not a waste of time. We try to entertain people a little more, engage them."

There are obvious similarities in style between the work of Linus and Paul and Mother. But like Mother, Linus and Paul are keen to show that their range extends beyond comedy. They point to ads such as the basketball spot for And 1 footwear as proof. "Maybe a lot of the work was initially edgy and humorous," Deitchman says. "But they've gone on to produce a broad spectrum."

"They don't just look to do funny ads," Waites adds. "They'll follow up with a website or a viral. They create fantastic characters that work across several media."

There is still much for Mother to sort out before it tackles New York.

It's not clear when the new office will open, nor which partners will be crossing the pond, nor how long they'll stay there.

It's a risky venture. But Mother is entrusting it with one of the most sought-after creative teams.

And will the duo ever turn their hands to a Mother London brief?

"Well I'm sure they'll have their hands full," Waites says . "But I'd love that to be the case."


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