"What we wanted to do was take a word that was loaded with so much negativity and try to turn that into something positive," notes Acne executive producer David Olsson on the origins of his Swedish collective's name. In just three years, the team, which currently consists of seven members, has already carved out a respected but twisted rep in Europe, backed by a strong visual and comedy reel. Docu-comic spots include a man decked out in black from head to toe who streaks through a nudist camp for H&M, and "Pirates," in which floor-phobes spend their lives doggedly avoiding the ground until their bag of chips falls on the carpet, changing their ways forever.
Acne's American debut, and breakthrough, features a remarkably real and hilarious depiction of banal cube life amusement in spots for Wieden & Kennedy/N.Y.'s ESPN "Without Sports" campaign, in which office workers play shelfball. "I felt very comfortable that they were going to nail the basic comedy, but more important, they had a way of adding the details that I love to see in spots," says Wieden's Kevin Proudfoot, the writer on the campaign. "They came back with ideas like having one of the guys not wearing any shoes because it helps his game, which actually turned into a huge part of another spot. It's these little things that make it so much richer." Beyond details, the spots took Gold at Cannes and became one of the most internationally awarded campaigns of the year.
As for the inevitable Traktor comparisons, Olsson claims that Acne's creative universe is larger. "They're really nice guys who make great film," he says of Traktor. "But we have different areas." Besides commercials, the Acne line of products includes online games, music, and the Action Jeans line, which has made it onto the rumps of stars and into the pages of Entertainment Weekly. "I think the creatives here really find inspiration, because while somebody's looking at new fabrics to design a new jacket, somebody else is making a commercial," Olsson says.