Anna Qvennerstedt on F&B’s Expansion into Asia, The Importance of Creative Awards, and More

As a copywriter, partner, and the Global Executive Chair at Forsman & Bodenfors, Anna Qvennerstedt has been an important part of the agency for 15 years and a vital player in building its worldwide creative reputation.

Last year, MDC Partners folded KBS into F&B to form a new global creative offering. From its original base in Gothenburg, F&B’s network now embraces New York, London, Toronto, Montreal, Stockholm, Singapore, and Shanghai.

“We’re thrilled to join forces with KBS, bringing our unique way of working to an expanded global family,” said Qvennerstedt, at the time of the Merger.


 

“Forsman & Bodenfors’ culture of collaboration and flat team structure are designed to break free from the standard hierarchical agency model, which allows us to deliver outsized creativity.”

Qvennersted has also been tapped this year as the 2019 Chair of the Cresta Awards. She recently spoke with Lewis Blackwell about her work, F&B’s creative model, its expansion east, the importance of creative awards, and more.


How – and to who — are creative awards useful? Why should agencies enter and what can they learn from the process?

I believe creative awards are a great form of recognition for hard work in our industry. They also serves as inspiration to raise the bar for all of us. But once you have won an award you are back to square one and I think the best way to win another one is to focus 100% on whatever task you have at hand, and not think too much about the work that won awards last year.

How do you choose which work to put into awards?

The work that has made the agency proud during the year goes into awards. If it is an international award show, the work also has to be relevant for a global audience.


 

Where can the industry do more to attract and support the creative talents it depends on?

I believe in giving a lot of freedom to talent, even the junior talent. Make them accountable straight away but be there to help out when they ask for it. Attracting the right talent is the most important thing and constantly very challenging. I think the industry has to look beyond traditional sources for talent.

A team traditionally consists of an account director, a planner, an art director, a copywriter and a project manager — but in my view, the roles don’t really matter anymore. You need brilliant people with creative and strategic minds. But they could just as well come from the technology, PR or media side

In many agencies, the title Creative Director is pretty common. At Forsman you have only copywriters and art directors. Why is that? Do you see any need to evolve the names, given how changing technologies have introduced new requirements and skills, and blurred roles?

We have never had creative directors really, we have relied on client teams where no one is in charge of anyone. It is a team effort and these teams run their own businesses. I think motivation grows when you feel accountable when you know that everything is up to you. That’s when people really start to care about the client and the work.

The move east was motivated by client needs: we do a lot of work for P&G in Singapore. There has also been a lot of interest in F&B from other Asian brands in the past few years and we want to be able to meet that.

A team traditionally consists of an account director, a planner, an art director, a copywriter and a project manager — but in my view, the roles don’t really matter anymore. You need brilliant people with creative and strategic minds. But they could just as well come from the technology, PR or media side. I don’t think much about the titles, what is important is to have a small, accountable team that gives 100% to solve a problem in a creative way.

What changes facing the industry are under-estimated? What do we need to pay more attention to?

Difficult question. The industry is challenged in so may ways. I think we need to be prepared to change a lot in how we structure ourselves and how we work. We have been very comfortable in our powerful AOR roles for decades, but the truth is that many clients ask themselves whether they need an agency at all these days. I am convinced that things we are really good at (when we are good) are more valuable than ever. But we need to be more efficient and package our offering more clearly.

We see big networks re-shaping in an effort to maintain importance and relevance to big brands. How do smaller networks, like Forsman, respond to this — if at all?

We reshape constantly. It is not only the big clients that demand new skillsets and setups. I like the constant reinvention and since Forsman & Bodenfors is all about collaboration we don’t feel threatened by in-house agencies or new types of consultants. There are things to learn and new people to collaborate with.

I believe creative awards are a great form of recognition for hard work in our industry. They also serves as inspiration to raise the bar for all of us.

With the Forsman/KBS merger, you stepped across the Atlantic. How different is it in the NY and Canadian market to your home markets? You opened up in Singapore last year. What stimulated the move east?

The move east was motivated by client needs: we do a lot of work for P&G in Singapore. There has also been a lot of interest in F&B from other Asian brands in the past few years and we want to be able to meet that. The Singapore office also has a lot to gain from the collaboration with our office in Shanghai. NY and Canada is of course very different from Sweden. But the foundation — the values of the agency, the commitment to the non-hierarchical ways of working — is shared.

Cresta Awards aims to be global in its values, open to many opinions. It is known for being judged differently: jurors work independently, their votes then being aggregated to overall decisions through a mathematical averaging. Cresta aims to leave no room for politics, or persuasion by loud voices or promoted cultures. But, as Jury Chair at this year’s Cresta Awards, you do get to share in advance what you would like the jurors to pay special attention to. What guidance do you have?

Like always, I want us to promote the work that takes us off guard, surprises us, sparks envy or makes us feel something. But I also think it is important that we award work that we believe has created change for real.

It is not about stats of efficiency, it is about that inner belief that this idea is working, it is affecting people, it is not made for award shows primarily, there is a real brand or cause behind it that has gained something through this creative thinking. It is through ideas like these our industry makes a difference.


The Cresta Awards are open for entry from agencies and creative around the world. For more info visit them at their website.

 

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