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Creative Cultures: Forsman & Bodenfors

Copywriter and Senior Partner Anna Qvennerstedt shares the working culture of Forsman & Bodenfors.

YCN: How would you describe what Forsman & Bodenfors offer to clients?

Anna Qvennerstedt: We offer an informal collaboration where our clients have a close partnership with their team at the agency. Our creative department doesn’t have a traditional hierarchy with Creative Directors and Executive Creative Directors, all our creatives take full responsibility for their work and get to know their clients extremely well. It’s cost efficient and cuts time to market. It also means a constant learning over time. Forsman & Bodenfors is owned by 31 equal working partners, so we are independent. I’d say that makes us more true to solving our clients' problems. We've never worried about reaching financial goals, and yet we are one of the most profitable and awarded agencies in Scandinavia, and have been so for a long time.

Above: Forsman & Bodenfors' Gothenburg office entrance.

How would you describe the creative culture at F&B?

We don’t need Creative Directors and we never race against each other within the agency. All creatives have their own clients and take full responsibility for the work they do. I believe creative people benefit from responsibility. If you own your project, the only thing you’ll think about is how to solve the problem. But if you need to go through a director, you may start thinking of what kind of ideas he or she will like.

The culture at F&B is very collective. We show each other work during the creative process and everyone has to participate. You need to set prestige aside and show things that aren't yet finished, sometimes just embryos. You also need to take the time and look at the things other people work on and give them your honest opinion.

The whole agency is behind you, which is a great feeling. Helping each other is the only filtering we need. It’s humanistic and elitist at the same time.

Above: F&B office workspaces.

What do you see when you look around the studio?

I see a lot of working places, we all sit in one huge room. Account people are mixed with creatives and we change places once a year or so. I also see a lot of work laid out on the floor for everyone to look at. I see a ping pong table. I see people sitting in groups discussing their projects. We also have quite a few separate rooms that you can use when you’re working on ideas or having internal meetings.

How does the design of your studio space influence the way you work?

We have an office in Gothenburg and Stockholm. At the moment they look very different, because we recently changed offices in Stockholm and have decorated the new place very differently. But the functions are pretty much the same. Everyone is sitting together in one big room, even our CEO. Internal rooms for creative work and external rooms for meetings. I think we need the open space to make the collective process work. It can sometimes be annoying to hear what everyone’s talking about, but it’s good for the culture. There are always headphones...

Above: F&B's meeting area.

Do you have any unusual methods of stimulating creativity?

The unusual thing is the flat organization. We’d like to think that’s stimulating for creativity. We do some of the regular stuff; we go to seminars and festivals and we try to gather the whole creative department for inspiration now and then. We have an internal blog where we share inspiration.

How many people are in your current team?

I work for three different clients. In every team we usually have an Art Director, a Copywriter, an Account Director, an Account Manager, a Planner and a Designer. We also bring in Producers depending on what we're producing. We have a couple of PR experts at the agency who join the team when needed. Our creative people are generally very strategic and our account people are very interested in creative quality.

How do you promote interaction between staff?

It comes very naturally since our model allows us to share the ideas and work we do for our clients. The open plan also helps.

Above: An F&B conference room.

How do you divide client time and creative time?

Everything here revolves around the projects. We have around 50 creatives and produce over 150 campaigns a year. The strategic and creative work is definitely our focus. That’s what everyone’s most interested in.

How do find talent for openings in your team?

We have our eyes set on certain people but we look at a lot of portfolios. We arrange portfolio days at the office every spring. The portfolio is important, but we’ve come to realise that the right personality is even more crucial. We need team players who enjoy the collective way of working and who can accept not having a fine title. We also need entrepreneurs, who are willing to take the driver’s seat and push their own projects forward. No one will do it for them.

Which recent project have you been especially proud of?

This year we’ve been doing exciting things for Volvo Trucks on a global scale. The trucking business is a very traditional B2B environment, so it’s really special to be able to change the rules in a business like that, together with a brave client. 

Above: Footage from F&B's Ballerina Stunt for Volvo Trucks.

What would be your dream project and why?

Forsman & Bodenfors has been Goliath on the Swedish market for a long time, but we are changing perspectives now and find ourselves being David on the global market. It’s very exciting. We have found a set-up that will make it possible for us to work on global accounts and we think that our approach can be very interesting for certain innovative global brands. So that kind of client is what we’re looking for right now.

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