Traktor on its latest move, and still being relevant after all these years

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Traktor Credit: Traktor

The veteran Swedish directing collective Traktor just announced it would be moving to a new production home, Stink Films, after three years with Rattling Stick. The team—directors Sam Larsson, Pontus Lowenhielm, Patrik von Krusenstjerna, Ole Sanders and Mats Lindberg, and producer Richard Ulfvengren—built a red-hot reputation in the late '90s and beyond with their off-beat, clutter-busting work for Paradiset DDB, Fallon Minneapolis, Cliff Freeman and Partners and more. Its creative for Diesel and Fox Sports earned the team two Cannes Grand Prix, and it also took time to direct memorable, sometimes jaw-dropping music videos for the likes of Basement Jaxx, Prodigy, The Flaming Lips and Madonna.

But while Traktor's name and reputation remained strong, it had been a while since the collective made big noise in the ad world. That is, until Tide came along. This summer, Traktor earned its third Cannes Lions Grand Prix as well as a Titanium Lion for the "It's a Tide Ad" Super Bowl campaign via Saatchi & Saatchi, New York. In 2017, the collective had steered the moving parts of the brand's other successful big game effort for the brand, "Bradshaw Stain," which turned what seemed to be Fox Sports commentator Terry Bradshaw's innocent food foible (a spill on his shirt) into a sophisticated integrated campaign.

Recently, it has brought its quirky tale-spinning to clients like Virgin, Monoprix—in a campaign centered on "The Worst Song in the World"—and Nissan, for its targeting of a younger generation of truck drivers.

The crew is settling into its new global production home at Stink Films, leaving Rattling Stick after three years of representation in the U.S. and the U.K. (Prior to that, it had enjoyed a long run at Partizan.) Fresh off the announcement, responding collectively (as the individual creatives are known to do) via email, Traktor answered Ad Age's questions about its latest move, and how it has stayed relevant in an ever-changing business.

Your career has seen its highs and some lulls. What are your thoughts on staying successful and relevant, especially in light of all the changes in the digital and social media landscape?
We look out for each other and try to maintain strong quality control amid the sound and fury of pre-production meetings and Google Docs brimming with multi-colored maybes. We have always had a strong work ethic in which we have reverence for the task at hand almost as if it was our first. Let's do this thing and make it zing!

Why move to Stink?
We don't move around much. But we really feel that Stink has a great vision for the way this industry is heading, and of Traktor's place within in. Stink also have the resources and people to support this vision globally. In short: We need overlapping grownups so we can continue to be the kids and make playful films. It seems to work best that way.

How do you think your sensibility or approach has evolved since winning your first Grand Prixs?
The approach is probably the same, although with the added element of expanded experience as we go. As we share in each others spoils and spoilers, it also means that we are continuously at close proximity to a parallel masterclass—or minor mishaps—from which we can (un)learn. We always ask ourselves, "What is the core of the project? What do we need for it to reverberate with mild hilarity across all platforms?" It has more to do with emotion and impact, rather than format, duration or whether it is direct to client or agency, etc. And we always try to go deep.

What are the best ways to collaborate with agencies and clients in order to get the best work?
The last few years we have enjoyed playing trans-atlantic, or inter-continental ping-pong where we bounce the script back and forth with the creatives from the treatment stage. Microsoft Word is a surprisingly flexible tool, and if employed correctly all the good stuff stays in. Pick a color!

You once told us, "We look for clear ideas that are executable in the format they are intended. That is, not cramming too many ideas into 30 seconds." Now the formats are so diverse, so what goes into choosing your projects today?
We look for heart. It's as simple as that. Then we try to make it beat big.

What's the biggest lesson on directing that you learned from "It's a Tide Ad"?
To not get too fazed by tremendous amount of change in a relatively short and pressured process that the Super Bowl ultimately provides. We had to roll with the punches, together with the agency, and although we thought great stuff was possibly being lost along the way, for various reasons, it was ultimately a blessing. Mixed blessings are blessings too. Increasingly so. Using curveballs as ammunition is great when it works. And it did.

What are you working on now?

There are some NDA's 10 layers deep, but we are meant to be on Traktor Summer Camp, so we'll sign them after an afternoon swim in our pre-padded Speedos, and get back to you.

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