Magnus Jakobsson

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EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR

ÅKESTAM HOLST

SWEDEN

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On Judging:

Why did you decide to accept the invite to NYF’s Executive Jury?

Because I think it’s one of the most prestigious awards out there. It’s a true honor to be asked to join the NY Festivals executive jury, as with most other major award shows. To discuss advertising with the world’s advertising elite while eating snacks in a well air conditioned conference room? What can possibly get better than that?


What are you most looking forward to with this experience?   

I’m looking forward to spending five days with some of the most brilliant minds in our industry, discussing work produced by even more brilliant minds.


Working in Advertising:

Tell us an experience (or two) that shaped the course of your career.

I’ve been working in advertising for roughly 20 years now. Prior to joining the ad-industry I didn’t really know what to do at all. I was basically just wandering the streets of Gothenburg, which is sort of the Manchester of Sweden, thinking I was going to be the next bestselling author of my generation. My turning point was basically when I realized that I wasn’t going to be the next bestselling author of my generation. So, I moved to Stockholm and started writing for advertising instead. So, in a way, you can say that me failing as an author made me win in advertising. Failing can be a great thing if you only choose to accept it.


What is the most outlandish request you’ve ever gotten at work?

I’m a rabid “anti-hugger”, a physical introvert to say the least. So, the most outlandish request to me is every time a client or colleague goes in for a big hug. 

I don’t think physical contact should exist in the professional world of advertising. Maybe on stage after winning a major award. But that’s it. 


What is an idea you were excited about, but just couldn’t carry out because of logistics?

When I was at DDB working with McDonald’s, one creative team had an idea like no other. It was basically to teach birds how to sing the McDonalds jingle. After countless of meetings with bird experts and innovators we designed a bird’s nest for a certain type of bird. The idea was to let these birds breed their kids in this nest, while being constantly bombarded by the McDonald’s jingle from small built in speakers. In the end, this would make them sing it while flying around the parks of Stockholm. In the end we decided not to go through with it, because of the simple fact that birds deserve to be free to sing whatever they want. We didn’t want to turn natures amazing gifts into media.


The world may have changed since you started in the business. What do you see as the biggest or most impactful change to advertising since you started in the industry? Any predictions of trends for 2019?

There is no room for creatives who are “only” creatives. In this day and age, you actually have to be really good at something to get respect in this industry. That’s why my advice to young creatives is to get really, really good at something. The times when being a creative was about wearing the right jeans strolling around the office with a cool t-shirt are definitely over. Creative talent is everything now. Creative image is nothing. Working in advertising isn’t even cool anymore. Far from it.  It’s fantastic, it’s exciting, it’s intense. But it’s most definitely not cool.

Thank god!


How is the increase in In-House creative departments affecting the business (or is it)?

It is certainly affecting business for most agencies. However, I believe that one problem in-house agencies might have at the moment is that the best creative talent are not naturally drawn to devoting their lives to helping only one brand if it doesn’t say Google, Nike or Apple on the front door. The best creative people always want to work with the best people relevant to their skills. So as long as an in-house agency can’t attract extremely creative talent, they can’t really threaten the agencies that can. But, naturally, all this can change tomorrow. The golden spear of great creative talent will decide, as always. Who knows? Maybe the workplace of tomorrow’s creative genius will be the local ham factory’s in-house department. Until then, advertising agencies can keep smiling.


How do you find balance (or do you?) between your high-powered job and life/family/outside of-work fun? Any ‘secrets’ you can share?

I have two daughters who are really creative. I would say more creative than some people calling themselves creatives. So, one tip is, like me, to involve your entire family in your work by making it fun to come up with ideas for brands. Hide your work in family fun, so to speak.  If you can’t do that, try planning your time wisely. I’m a catastrophe when it comes to that, but I’ve heard that it’s possible. Calendars are a thing. But in a way, I believe that when you truly breath and live advertising, it doesn’t really affect good times with the family. You can do both.


Favorite Ads:

Share an ad you are particularly proud of. 

I’m really proud of most of our work for IKEA. Great teamwork for an even greater client resulting in world class work. As it should be, basically.


Share an ad that changed the way you view the business. 

I wouldn’t really want to name one piece of work here, because there are so many. But my favorite agency in the world is Wieden & Kennedy, because of their track record of actually making great ideas even greater when bringing them to life. Perfection in both idea and craft since forever. If I didn’t already have job, I would open a WK-office in Stockholm in a heartbeat if they asked me. Being as good as W&K has been for so long is really inspiring thing to me. It makes you believe.


Share your favorite ad that illustrates how advertising can change the world and tell us why you love it.

“Small Business Saturday” for American Express really highlighted a great path for how advertising can help change the world, without being pretentious or cheesy. Advertising as a tool for real change. Still one of the best campaigns ever, among many others of course.


Creative Leadership:

What do you look for when hiring new talent?

I look for real talent and skills. As I mentioned before, there is no room for creatives without actual creative skills in this industry. So, I look for that, whatever it might be. And I look for creatives who aren’t the usual suspects, so to speak. Freaks and geeks who maybe didn’t necessarily go to ad-school, but spent their days perfecting their personal creative skills instead. Outsiders who want to come inside. 


What advice would you give to up-and-coming creatives when they feel stuck?

Think of it as a game. A game where the best idea within a certain framework will win. That this is just for fun. It’s not even a job. And above all, never think advertising per se, think disruption designed to fight everyday boredom. Your weapon is your creative talent. Combine that with what’s happening in the world and you will end up in paradise. Well, or in hell, but it will be worth it. Yolo.


What kinds of things (positive or negative) did you learn about being a creative leader from people you worked for along the way? Anything you wish your creative leaders had told you?

I wish they would have told me that this job is much harder than one can ever imagine. Sure, it’s always about great ideas. But then again, it’s also about making these ideas survive until the end. Because most clients, understandably, always aim to keep their jobs in the first place, risk-taking is not necessarily their weapon of choice when it comes to marketing.


What is the toughest part of your job? Favorite part?

The toughest job is when great work is stopped by totally irrelevant circumstances.

The best part is when everything just works. Those times when both creatives, strategists, producers and clients simply won’t give up in their struggle against mediocracy. When stars align and new universes can expand.