So you moved from Sweden to Singapore a month ago now. What are your first impressions of the creative scene here and how does it compare to your experience in Sweden and Europe as a whole?
“It’s a vibrant scene here and there is a lot more happening than in Europe. Asia is a fast-growing market and Singapore has a booming economy and you can sense that in terms of consumer spending. There is a lot more competition between brands. Creativity plays a big role here, but it is very dependent on how bold the brand or the client is going to be. In terms of standards, I don’t think there’s really a difference. In Singapore it’s very international and there is this meeting between East and West, which I think has the potential to create much better work.”
In contrast to a very international Singapore, what was the creative scene like in post-Brexit Europe? Did the British referendum have a big impact on the industry?
“Right now I think most people are in a state of shock, both in terms of Brexit and the election in the United States. There are also several other countries in Europe that are threatening to leave the European Union. Just a simple thing like being able of work freely across the borders in Europe will be much harder and will hinder the flow of creative collaboration. All this creates a sense of separation and an attitude of ‘every man for himself’. A good thing though is that most creatives are quite aware and progressive individuals could work as a counterweight to balance the ‘darker’ forces.”
And what was it in particular that drove you to move six thousand miles across the world here?
“The next 10 years belong to Asia. You can see that on a macro level. Meanwhile, European and American culture has become much more protectionist. Here, it’s open to free trade and collaboration. There is a booming economy here; there are a number of brands here and there is a sense of openness. Because of that, Asia became the place to be. It is a much more interesting region than the US at the moment.”
So what exactly is your creative ambition or vision in your role as ECD?
“My main goal is to merge the digital and the physical space. We call it ‘phygital’; it means merging the two experiences. In the past 10 years, there has been a huge focus on the digital and quite rightly so, but clients now feel they have lost that face-to-face, intimate connection with their consumers. There is also an opportunity to boost creativity over the wider length of time here. It seems that the period between receiving a brief and the submission is very short here: it can be either a week or two weeks. And to get the creativity really spurring we might need a month to go back and forth with ideas. So it’s a case of educating clients that creativity does give them an important advantage when trying to convince the consumer that their brand is something interesting and relevant.”
Won’t that be challenging for you though as a new arrival, especially given the importance of relationships in both Asian business practices and the advertising world?
“We’ll have to see. But building relationships is always the case in this industry. The client sometimes needs to be bolder and go break conventions, but that often comes from feeling secure with the agency. And it takes time to develop that trust. That will be one of my biggest challenges”
Strategically, what are your plans for Jack Morton? Are you happy with the team you have and are you intending to expand?
“We will be expanding and we will be sourcing talent both locally and bringing in people from overseas, depending what we can find here. Some talents are easier to find than others. There are no really interesting creative or advertising schools here. That is something that [Singapore] is lacking. But it is easy to get talent over here. I’ve reached out to some of [my former Swedish colleagues] so that could be a possibility. Singapore does have a lot of good 2D designers, filmmakers and graphic designers. Those talents are easier to find than say art directors and creative directors, who would come from creative schools.”
Moving on, how much do awards motivate you as a creative?
“Not much from a personal perspective. If there is work that has been effective or has led to a change in the consumer mindset, then [an award] is good for the client and the agency. In agencies it’s good as it creates a feeling of being proud of the work done. But I do not seek them for that recognition personally.”
Have you ever found yourself either intentionally or otherwise so participating in scam work in the past?
“I have not, but I have seen it in other agencies and I know it’s dangerous. Agencies start creating work to compete with other agencies rather than focusing on doing good work for the client, because they only care about winning awards. It’s dangerous for the business because a client sees something that isn’t going to help them as a brand or with market share, and instead is only something for the agency. Ultimately, that leads to a loss of trust between the two. I stay very much away from it.”
You must be aware of the ‘I-Sea’ app scandal and Asia’s overall reputation for sometimes creating scam work. Do you fear you may end up getting sucked into that approach?
“You do have to be careful. You have to remember what you value and take care of what you submit, and how you submit it. And you really do need to have your clients on board with you and not submit something for your own sake.”
So I hear you’re quite into yoga. Do you bring any elements from it, such as spirituality, to your creativity and leadership?
“I come as I am and I try to infuse as much of who I am in the work I do. At the end of the day, creativity is a very personal thing. It derives from something within me. We are trying to get some yoga into the office too: just once a week. A relaxed mind is a creative mind and that’s very important: you need to fill a space with creativity and if you’re just sitting in front of a computer with stress then you will not think that expansively.”