Meet Finland’s Finest
Finland can be a tough environment to live in – temperatures in the winter can drop below -40 °C and the mean temperature is below zero. Yikes. But with hardship so often comes creativity, and with that in mind we’re delving into the lives of four of Finland’s finest creative agencies: Bob The Robot, TBWA\Helsinki, hasan & partners and Folk Finland. Each of them is very much imbued with the digital prowess that the whole of the Nordic region is renowned for, but each with their own nuances and quirks that make them unique. LBB’s Addison Capper is here to tell you more.
Bob The Robot
Bob The Robot was crowned the ‘Årets Byrå’ Large Agency of the Year earlier this summer - and there are a couple of reasons why that’s particularly noteworthy. Firstly, it’s the first Finnish agency to win the award. Secondly, the Årets Byrå is different from many other advertising award shows because of the way it is judged - solely on client satisfaction. Clients give grades on numerous different criteria and the winner is chosen based on the agency that receives the highest overall score.
According to Bob The Robot’s CEO Miska Rajasuo, there are three main factors to the agency’s success:
1) “Creativity for us is only a tool in getting extremely good results for customers. And creative marketing is much more than just advertising.”
2) “The combination of world-class planning, digital capabilities and our own film production company makes us extremely nimble.”
3) “We are more a family than a company.”
That third point seems particularly important for the Bob The Robot leadership team. When commenting on their Årets Byrå success, Miska said: “At Bob the Robot we put most of our focus on our people because they are ultimately the base for all of our success. When our agency has the best people everything else follows; high-quality work and satisfied clients.”
Bob The Robot is relatively young, launching only in 2013, but has deep roots in the Finnish market - its launch was the result of a merger between creative agencies Bob Helsinki and Robot. It now employs 58 people.
One piece of recent work that Miska’s particularly proud of is the revamp and relaunch of Finnish vodka Koskenkorva. The work has helped launch the brand into new markets, such as the UK and the US, but also offers up somewhat of a passion project for Finns. “Some brands are just so much more,” says Miska. “It’s hard to explain what Koskenkorva means to us Finns. There is a lot of history, culture and just life written into that brand. To be able to work with something of that calibre is any agency’s dream.”
We’ve seen first hand the kind of work that TBWA\Helsinki is capable of when we joined them in Stockholm to play Pro Evolution Soccer with a car in place of the PlayStation controller. (You can read more about there here). It’s a campaign that stands up to the agency’s mantra of being “digital by nature” and “big believers in data” - ECD Jyrki Poutanen and CD Mikko Pietilä say: “Everyone here is constantly encouraged to find new ways, which means we’re always in beta.”
Since that campaign launched just over a year-and-a-half ago, the agency has stuck to its guns and continued knocking out smart work that’s rooted in data and tech. Recently they set about teaching primary school kids about climate change - a poignant topic, thanks to recent developments in global politics - for renewable energy company Neste by using augmented reality and taking data from 5000 environmental studies, and gamifying it.
Another striking piece of recent work is for the Helsinki Police Department. According to the campaign, Finland tops domestic violence charts globally, and to tackle it TBWA\Helsinki took the most traditional media out there - print - and used it in a 21st century way. Photos that showed seemingly innocent scenes by day were placed in bus shelters, but as night fell they displayed a grim reality.
Despite the agency’s digital tendencies, it was actually founded in 1988, before TBWA acquired it in 1997. It boasts 110 employees but thanks to a slew of recent new business TBWA\Helsinki is hiring - so if you fancy a new adventure in Finland, give them a call.
And if you need a little extra convincing, Jyrki and Mikko tell us of “two always-on beer taps integrated into the reception counter”.
hasan & partners
hasan & partners are a dab hand at marketing themselves as well as their clients - upon acquiring Swedish agency Perfect Fools in 2014, group ECD and CEO Eka Ruola and chairman Ami Hasan appeared on Finnish radio while wired up to an electric current. It was a slightly drunken idea that come to fruition, created buzz around what was a big acquisition for hasan & partners and gained them some awards to boot. “Sometimes you have to suffer for your art,” Eka told us (https://lbbonline.com/news/5-minutes-with-eka-ruola/).
The agency was born “during the deepest of the recession in 1991”, and has grown to house 170 people within multiple agencies in two different countries (Finland and Sweden), meaning it offers everything from consumer insight through to creative storytelling all the way to PR and production.
Over its 26 years of existence, hasan & partners has grown beyond its Nordic roots to become a big player all across Europe. Chairman Ami was recently appointed the President of the Art Directors Club in Europe and hasan employees have recently judged at Cannes Lions, The One Show, London International Awards, Baltic Best and Golden Hammer. “I’m very proud of what’s recently going on with this group when it comes to our place in the party,” says Eka. “Not just about the work, but also about our increased foothold in this industry.”
hasan & partners, the group’s Helsinki office, recently launched a disturbingly beautiful campaign for Plan Finland. They worked with designer Paola Shone to create ‘Maternity Wear for a 12-Year Old’ to highlight the fact that over 7 million young girls become pregnant in developing countries each yeah. It’s “a very modern initiative,” believes Eka.
Also check out ‘Premier Haircuts’, the latest campaign from Perfect Fools, the group’s Stockholm office, for Svenska Spel, Sweden’s national lottery company. “You can actually get an iconic football haircut, as a real fan naturally should,” says Eka.
“If working in marketing feels boring, you’re doing boring work,” believes Folk Finland CEO Tommi Laiho.
Tommi and his team turn their hands to creating exciting work for challenger brands - “that’s where we are at our best, being the challenger,” Tommi adds - but the work that makes him most proud is the stuff that transcends borders and can be enjoyed anywhere. A lot of the work produced in Finland is, understandably, rooted deeply in local culture and people, but two recent universal examples from Folk Finland are ‘Green Haven’ for garden tools supplier Kekkilä and ‘Sportyfeel’ for Lidl.
Tommi’s proud of the vibe that’s developed at Folk since its launch in January of 2010. The company has steadily grown to just less than 30 employees, all of which play a unique role in developing the “humane, ambitious and creative company” and are, in Tommi’s eyes, the most important and unique part of Folk. “[They are] all individuals that cannot be cloned. We’re all a bit crazy in a way.”
Everyday life in the office “mainly consists of bad jokes and Elvis Presley” and any kind of stuffy formalities aren’t welcome. “You can leave them by the door before entering the office.”