Our way of working
1. We always aim for world class.
Does that seem like an obvious statement? Well, it isn’t. Most creative agencies aim for world class only with some clients – while we do it with all clients.
It may not be possible to achieve this with every brief, but if we don’t feel we can do world-class work for a client, then we should not work with that client in the long term.
This effectively means we don’t look for “bread and butter clients.” We will only pitch clients who want to do something profoundly different and new.
It also means that we believe all of us are capable of world class – if we just set the bar high, if we have the right conditions and if we try really, really hard.
The extensive hours we spend on research, smart thinking, building presentation decks and meetings are not worth much on their own. We bring true value to clients when we get out work that is outstanding. That is our common task. That is what we aim for.
If we just spend our time coming up with something brilliant and putting it out in the world, everything else will follow.
2. The responsibility is yours.
At Forsman & Bodenfors, no one will give you instructions. You are in charge, together with your team. Success is in your hands and no one will stand in your way.
If the client brief feels too complicated, it is up to you to bring it up with the team and ultimately talk to the client about it. If you are unsure about the strategy or ideas, it is up to you to raise your voice and try again. If something isn’t working out within the team or the workplace, it is your responsibility to help solve the issue.
We find that responsibility is a strong motivator. Because when it is up to you, everything feels more important. Responsibility makes people grow. Responsibility turns employees into entrepreneurs and talking into action.
And please remember you are not alone. You are surrounded by more than 700 colleagues, and their experience and skills are yours to benefit from. They are the safety net that will always be there for you to fall into.
When your work is a success, the credit will go to you and your team, while a bunch of other people will feel they have contributed. If it’s not a success, you will still have 700 people behind you.
So by all means, fail. Just don’t fail alone.
3. The collective is our Creative Director.
You are allowed to do many things at Forsman & Bodenfors. There is one thing you’re definitely not allowed to do, and that is to keep your work to yourself within the team.
Each integrated team, with its account, strategy, creative, media, tech, production and other team members, is expected to work closely and openly in an interdisciplinary way. The ideas that you create can only be truly integrated when you work in a collaborative, kind, generous and egoless way.
Moreover, you and your team are expected to show the things you are working on to your agency peers in the process.
Yes, it can be a little intimidating to show premature strategies and ideas to other people. But think about it like this: No one will judge you for getting stuck. The only thing that will happen is people will try to help. Remember that we all come up with bad ideas. That is basically what we do – we come up with bad ideas and then we navigate around them until we have a good one.
So, we expect you to be open to other people’s opinions, but you and your team are still in charge. You are the ones that ultimately decide which strategy, idea or edit to go with.
The beautiful thing is that we all become better at Forsman & Bodenfors than we would somewhere else. We get to walk around as 125% versions of ourselves thanks to the experience of others.
4. ”The Floor”
We call our collective work model “The Floor.”
The name is from F&B’s early days when ideas were laid out on a floor for all to review and provide feedback. Today, “The Floor” will exist both in the real world and virtually, facilitating global collaboration between offices.
It is about showing work to others, either by putting it on the floor for everyone to see, or by bringing a few people into a room to discuss an idea, a premature thought, a strategy. It is about opening up to criticism without status and about giving your time to help others.
Please use “The Floor” lavishly. Use it to try out new routes, rough ideas, copywriting, layouts, director’s treatments. Use it with offline edits and prototypes and media plans. Use it in group sessions.
Use it by asking specific people about their personal feedback. Get another copywriter’s or strategist’s eye on your text or presentation. Use the people you don’t normally work with. Use the new hire.
Use the veteran. Use the receptionist. Use the guy from China you spoke to once on the phone. Use a random Swede.
And when your input is requested, try to find the time to look at the work and make your criticism as constructive as possible. This goes for everyone, regardless of seniority. While a junior person can benefit from the experience of more senior peers, the senior people have as much to gain from getting input from a younger generation. We all bring different perspectives and they are all important.
5. The only boss is the task itself.
If you are at the bottom of the usual hierarchic agency structure, you spend your time seeking approval. If you are at the top, you spend your time giving approval. One of the biggest benefits of the Forsman & Bodenfors’ way of working is that it allows us to spend our time figuring out how to solve the problem.
Because we have no layers of bosses to please, we won’t be dependent on a brief that we can’t change or on a person’s opinion that we can’t question.
We just have a client. And a team to collaborate with. Why not start by discussing the client brief? Is it the right one? We can look beyond the brief and search for the real problem. Is there an actual business problem out there that our work could solve?
It is in the land of real, understandable problems that innovative ideas live. We can probably find an innovative idea in a lofty brief also, but it takes way longer and it is a lot more frustrating.
6. Strategy and creative is one process.
How is an idea invented? Well, it is pretty much a mess every time. Structure and schedules are there to make sure we deliver on time, but within the time frame there will be mayhem. We never know how long it will take. We never know where the inspiration will come from. We may change route late in the process. We may get stuck for a long time. The only thing we know is that it will take a lot of effort.
The process is not linear. It is unpredictable. We will feel useless and brilliant and then useless again. It is a process of experimentation. Old stuff merges almost accidentally with new stuff and suddenly there is an idea or invention. That’s why we don’t work in a linear process where strategy comes first and creative later.
At Forsman & Bodenfors, all kinds of creatives and strategists work side by side. Sometimes, the idea comes first and the strategy later. Sometimes, the creative person comes up with the strategy. Sometimes, the strategist has an idea.
We pick up the client brief together, and from there it is up to us – strategists, account people, creatives, technologists, media planners, producers - as a team.
7. We work closely with clients.
At Forsman & Bodenfors, the clients will get to know the people who actually do the work. And the people who actually do the work will get to know the clients; their industry, their challenges, products, business, heritage, their soul.
What happens as a result is that teams start caring about their clients for real. They start having opinions about what the client really needs. The team, often even the creatives, suddenly become strategic partners. When the client feels the team can navigate the full complexity of their business, trust will grow and out of trust comes bolder ideas.
Use this trust to tell the truth. Make use of your privilege to be naive. If you ever feel you have become too familiar and lost the benefit of having outside perspective, we can always get you busy on something new.
8. When it comes to recruiting we want the right people, not just the right qualifications.
Forsman & Bodenfors’ collaborative way of working is our North Star when it comes to hiring talent and partnering with clients. Do they want to be part of a collective? Do they like to share ideas with others? Are they willing to listen to what other people think? Can they admit they’re wrong? Are they willing to take on the responsibility? Are they nice? Do they add an interesting perspective? Will they go the extra mile?
When we hire, we look for two things. We look for specialists who respect and know how to play well with team members from other disciplines. Or Swiss Army knives: creatives who are strategic and strategists who are creative, media people who can code, engineers who are designers, producers who can edit. No one can be an asshole. All have to be collaborators and entrepreneurs.
If you know anyone who fits these specifications, please let your talent manager know.
9. We embrace a ”no frills” approach.
We may work in an industry that is inflated by corporate bullshit, complicated presentation buildups and lots of empty phrases, but no one says we have to go with the same flow!
Let’s apply a common-sense filter on everything. Let’s make the complicated simple. Let’s make sure we know enough to say what needs to be said in a few powerful words. Let’s make presentations that our mothers and fathers would understand and our best friends would like. Let’s be stupid smart.
It takes some confidence, but we have it.
10. Forsman & Bodenfors is a human workplace.
We are committed to creating and fostering a collaborative, diverse and inclusive culture and work environment across the global collective. The richness of different ideas, backgrounds and perspectives creates world-class creativity. Diversity is what makes the difference. Inclusion brings us together.
There is also life outside of work – family, exercise, friends – and we acknowledge that too needs to be functioning. We don’t measure people from hours spent in the office. We trust that everyone will do their very best and get their things done, whether it is within office hours or the night shift or at home after dinner with family or friends.
At Forsman & Bodenfors, we appreciate nice people. We all feel relaxed and authentic around nice people, which is a good start. It is more likely that we dare to have crazy/stupid ideas around nice people, as we won’t feel judged. It is also more likely that nice people will help us out when we get stuck.
What we do is sometimes hard work, both mentally and physically. So we try to make the environment as friendly as possible. Collaboration over competition. The collective over the ego. Support over authority.
11. We can make the world better. (Or worse.)
If that sounds naive or silly, perhaps Forsman & Bodenfors is not for you.
We have a lot of clients, which means that we manage a number of very public voices. These voices matter. Stack all of our clients’ media budgets together and add some really powerful messages on top – and you have a global megaphone in your hand. We have the power to change things. Opinions, ideals, attitudes and what people choose to do. And we want to have a positive impact, not only on our clients’ business, but also on society. We don’t want to offend people carelessly with insensitive messages. We are aware of the underlying messages of our messages.
We make boring things fun, complicated things simple and ugly things beautiful.
And we try to find and communicate our clients’ best selves. Which often means trying to get them to do interesting things that really help people, or the planet.
Luckily, this doesn’t just make our own working days more meaningful. It’s usually the best way for clients to build their brands and businesses too.