Focusing on both their own growth and their industry's dire talent shortage, Stockholm-based Farfar will open a New York office, its first outside Sweden, this summer. It will also start the Farfar Academy in September in Stockholm to train the next wave of digital creatives.
A 'grandfather' is born
CEO Matias Palm-Jensen and Creative Director Nicke Bergstrom opened Farfar (Swedish for "grandfather") in 2000 on the eve of the dot-com bust, and sold it to Aegis Group's Isobar almost three years ago.
"Everyone else [who started dot-coms] had English names, but we thought we'll just be in Sweden with Swedish clients," Mr. Bergstrom said. "Now we've got global clients, and [the other agencies] all went bankrupt with their fancy English names."
The global clients include Nokia and Diesel. Mr. Palm-Jensen said Farfar expects to hire 15 or 20 people for the New York office, and that several clients are interested. The word is getting out: At last week's Webby Awards, Mr. Palm-Jensen's five-word acceptance speech for Farfar's four Webbys was: "We're opening in New York."
"It has a lot to do with finding talent," Mr. Bergstrom said. "It's hard to get the best ones to move to Stockholm and hard to keep [Swedes] when everyone is contacted by headhunters in New York and London."
Their other initiative, the Farfar Academy, will be jointly funded by Isobar and a Swedish university group, the Berghs School of Communication. The two-year program will start with 30 students, mostly Swedes. Like the Miami Ad School, which operates in cities from London to São Paulo, will expand to cities beyond Stockholm, Mr. Palm hopes. For teachers and internships, he will draw heavily on both Isobar agencies and his friends in the business, including the Creative Social. That's an informal network of 30 or 40 creatives who meet about three times a year. The Creative Social's last gathering was in Berlin, and the next, after a lunch in Cannes, will be in Brazil.
Farfar's latest international campaign launched Nokia's high-end N95 phone in March 2007. The agency invented Great Pockets, a ridiculous line of clothing by fictitious tailor Henry Needle & Sons that lets people tote around all their different multimedia devices, including laptops and cameras, in clothes with enormous pockets. Or they could just buy a Nokia N95 phone. Besides the website in six languages, genuine Great Pocket clothes were manufactured and sent to influential people in the mobile community. Bloggers started their own contests to give them away, and Great Pocket outsize pants were auctioned on eBay for more than $200.
To promote the website, short films were posted on film sites showing the awkward experiences of people wearing Great Pocket pants and trying, for instance, to play golf. In an online "Ridicule your friend" contest, entrants can win a Nokia N95 for themselves and Great Pocket pants for a friend.
Lost, but not forgotten
As for the missing Lion, it doesn't look good, despite the $1,000 reward offered. In a video subtitled in English on Farfar's website, the luckless creative who thought it would be funny to bury the gold Lion in the sand confesses, "I was drunk and I regret it." In the video, he and his fellow creatives dig frantically in the sand and speculate about where the lost Lion could have gone ("Maybe the Poles took it").
Their unfortunate experience won't deter the Farfar team from attending MSN's Wednesday-night beach party at Cannes again this year.
"We'll have shovels with us," Mr. Palm-Jensen said.