The World's Leading Independent Agencies: Forsman & Bodenfors

Filip Nilsson says that integrating ideas to create a buzz is the way to reach today's consumers.

Soon after its launch in October last year, the new Ikea Sweden kitchen website had attracted 900,000 visitors - in a country with a population of only nine million. Surfers met Ikea in a very different visual landscape, based on 3-D and frame-by-frame animation.

In the middle of today's media overload, 10 per cent of the total population decided, voluntarily, to spend an average of four minutes of their time on somebody's advertising. And the vast majority of them did so without even being close to changing their old kitchen. Why?

Because the site was a buzzer. Ikea had, once again, become a major conversation piece. People discussed the website at dinner parties. They e-mailed the web address to friends and they blogged about it. For a couple of weeks in autumn, this site was as important in Sweden as the last episode of Desperate Housewives or Princess Victoria's boyfriend.

The campaign is a good example of what we at Forsman & Bodenfors believe is the future of advertising. We are convinced that this kind of buzz potential will be a key ingredient in all successful communications. But what makes a buzzer?

We define it as advertising with enough impact to break out of its advertising context. Ads that grow and become part of the discussion and frame of reference in society. Commericals that constitute, in themselves, a happening.

Often, it will be a virtual experience - an experience that people choose to have if they want to, when they want to, through the internet.

But it can also be a real, physical event, such as 20,000 moose parading through central Stockholm to promote a wildlife charity fund. And sure, a truly great ad will still be a buzzer in the future. Just think of the recent Sony Bravia commercial with all the brightly coloured balls bouncing down a street in San Francisco.

Similarly, an extremely convincing piece of copy in a classical print ad might still be able to start a buzz. And a big, unexpected "sale" in a luxury department store will definitely work. A tried and true buzzer.

Everything that really touches you has buzz potential: experiences that you talk to others about, things you try to find on the web and then send on to all your friends, things that really challenge your view of a brand, product or service.

We have tried hard to create a work environment that supports this development. I do not think any other big agency is organised the way we are today. It is strange but it works.

Our company is owned by 23 equal partners, all working in the agency. There is a big, open workspace in Gothenburg and another one in Stockholm, where all the work we do is visible to all the people who work here. Erik, our managing director, sits next to a graphic designer, who sits next to an account director, and so on.

It is all about creative quality. The goal is to get as much energy as possible into every single project. Every client has a dedicated group, but on top of that, as a bonus, they get many, many more people providing input to their projects.

We now have about 80 people working in the agency and still do not have fixed teams. You work with different people on different accounts. Facing a challenge with new people is a fantastic way of growing, and it creates a much healthier social structure. Your loyalty should be with the clients and with the whole agency, not with your team-mate.

Six years ago, we closed Virus (our web subsidiary), incorporated a few specialists and decided that from eight o'clock the next day, F&B was a web agency as well. It was a radical decision, but logical. If the internet is the future of our business, why should it be handled by a separate group?

We also stopped all outsourcing of internet work, with the exception of programming. Today, both concepts and design are developed in-house, alongside the usual print and TV productions. It is an obvious and simple way to get really integrated campaigns. Buzz campaigns.

It was a bit of a struggle in the beginning, of course. But it was easily the best and most stimulating strategic move we have ever made.

Today, many companies wake up and realise their old spreadsheet communication model doesn't really apply any more. You know, the one with different media along one axis and the months of the year on the other. The search for a new system begins. But what if there is no such system? What if the solution is to challenge the old model fundamentally?

Today, consumers can choose. And who wants to be part of somebody's systemised communication model?

The internet is a very useful tool, but it is not the whole answer. The future is about picking up and using what is going on in society. It is about integration between product development and communication. It is about uncommon concentration in media to break through.

It is also about breaking the communication rules of your own category. We are used to stunning visual experiences in jeans, car and sports advertising. But the same language applied to an Ikea kitchen might feel inspiring and new.

We do not work with the Swedish fashion retailer H&M. Unfortunately. But its latest campaigns are wonderful examples of what we see as the future. The merger between haute couture designers and a distinct low-price profile is shaking the foundations of the whole category. Both the Karl Lagerfelt and the Stella McCartney collections created riots outside stores all over Europe. A true happening.

A truly integrated thought. Is there a crisper way to tell the story of a low-price fashion brand?

It has never been more exciting to work in this industry. Everything is changing and everything is possible. The opportunities for people and brands that try new roads are incredible. Soon, big companies will not run a website anymore. They will run an internet TV station, or produce phone-based podcasts. Imagine the demand for intelligent content ...

- Filip Nilsson is the executive creative director at Forsman & Bodenfors.

AT A GLANCE

Name: Forsman & Bodenfors

Founded: 1986

Principals: Greger Andersson, Hans Andersson, Oscar Askelof, Sven-Olof Bodenfors, Eva Carlheim-Muller Sahlin, Kim Cramer, Johan Eghammer, Anders Eklind, Jonas Enghage, Bjorn Engstrom, Staffan Forsman, Elisabet Gustafsson, Anders Harneman, Karin Jacobsson, Fredrik Jansson, Andreas Malm, Filip Nilsson, Johan Olivero, Martin Ringqvist, Erik Sollenberg, Mikko Timonen, Olle Victorin, Lotta Agerup

Staff: 84

Location: Gothenburg, Stockholm

Mission statement: Don't have one, please see adjoining article

Describe your agency in three words: We create buzz.

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