Mr. Nilsson, who has only ever worked at Forsman & Bodenfors, has yet to think up a title to describe his new role, but starting in September he will be based at BETC’s Paris headquarters, focusing on digital creativity and innovation. He will work closely with Remi Babinet, the chairman and global creative director, and Stephane Xiberras, the CEO and chief creative officer.
“A year ago I told my partners that I was going to look for a second job,” Mr. Nilsson said. “It was the toughest speech I ever made but I’m turning 50 and I knew that if I wanted another adventure in life, now is the time. Everybody understood.” He quietly stepped down from his chairman role last year, and, when he met Mr. Babinet, soon overcame the hostility he had nurtured towards big networks during a quarter of a century at an independent agency.
Mr. Nilsson, who was named one of the Creativity 50 in 2010, said, “It’s a bit like sleeping with the enemy – it was a big issue for me until I met Remi. We were supposed to meet for half an hour but we kept on talking for three hours. It was like coming home. The people at BETC are free spirits. They are not part of a system, they share my passion for beautiful, well-crafted stuff. BETC has a similar position to F&B in Scandinavia – they have big clients and like to do work that makes people talk.”
BETC was founded in 1995 by Mr. Babinet, who is the ‘B’ in BETC, and Mercedes Erra, who represents the ‘E’ and is executive president of Havas Worldwide. BETC agency is France’s biggest agency, and now is building a micronetwork. The London office of BETC opened in 2011, and a Brazil shop is scheduled to launch this year. Mr. Nilsson will help with recruitment for the new office, and is also expected to be an asset when pitching for international business as well as working on Paris clients, including Evian, one of the agency’s flagship clients.
Mr. Babinet said, “BETC is in a new phase and Filip can help us to accelerate that and to become smarter. He is important for internationalization and for helping us find new ways of working in the agency. His most important role is to give strong, clear creative direction and to lead by example.”
During Mr. Nilsson’s many years of creative leadership, Forsman & Bodenfors has been a heavily-awarded agency at ad shows around the world and Mr. Nilsson is one of the reasons Swedes have a global reputation for creativity.
One of the unorthodox Swedish agency’s most famous efforts is the 2009 Facebook “Showroom” campaign for Ikea, which turned the basic tagging function into a promotional tool for a new Ikea store.
Mr. Nilsson was the sixth employee at the agency, and took the job because his wife didn’t want to move to Stockholm; Forsman & Bodenfors was one of the few agencies based in their home town of Gothenberg. There are now 300 employees in the group.
The new job was similarly inspired by geography. Mr. Nilsson decided he wanted to move to Paris, his favorite city, and then started looking looked for a job in the French capital. He will start work for BETC in September, once he has settled in Paris with his wife, who is a French teacher, and the younger two of their four children.