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Opinion and Insight

Why StrawberryFrog is Not Your Average Ad Agency

Co-founders Karin Drakenberg & Scott Goodson on how they're disrupting the traditional agency model

Why StrawberryFrog is Not Your Average Ad Agency

They say that an agency is the result of its culture, and the culture of an ad agency is more often than not crated by its founders and by the city in which it was born. 

In the case of StrawberryFrog, the agency was founded by Karin Drakenberg (left), a Swedish advertising creative who had previously worked in one of Stockholm’s hot creative agencies known for it’s Scandinavian work for Nike among other brands. Her co-founder was Scott Goodson, a Canadian strategist and creative thinker who started his advertising career in Stockholm, launching Bjorn Borg’s fashion line. Karin and Scott are two of a group of marketers who emerged from the Swedish advertising industry in the late 1980s and 1990s. Their peers include other Swedish creative thinkers who have broken out on the world stage. The inventiveness and visual style of this marketing did much to shape the evolution of contemporary advertising.

They moved to Amsterdam in the late 1990s to start StrawberryFrog with the launch of the small two-seat smart car as their founding client along with IKEA and Ericsson Smart Phones, the world leader at the time. 

The agency quickly grew around its clients but was buttressed by its culture, which came out of the founder’s Swedish agency life experience. 

“We built the agency around an open-room principle. From this platform emerged speed, friendship, respect and all the important things that are needed to make it happen. Our office is housed in a large open space in the penthouse of a building on Madison Avenue and it allows us to work with a lot of motivation, inspiration and knowledge because it’s all-open and everyone is mixed together. Everyone knows and appreciates each other’s work and if anyone is called away of feeling ill someone can come in and keep the process going,” says Scott Goodson, co-founder of StrawberryFrog. 

“We seem to keep twice as many accounts around a single account person as a traditional agency without, I dare say, losing creativity. I would say that the role of the account people is to gain creativity and freshness because our team is moving forward all the time,” says Karin Drakenberg, co-founder of StrawberryFrog.

Scott Goodson, Co-founder of StrawberryFrog

Resting on one’s laurels has not been a recipe for success in the fast changing advertising industry. To remain relevant and innovative, StrawberryFrog keeps all it’s team on its toes. StrawberryFrog is built user-friendly. People are truly responsible for the client’s business. 

“We think it makes our people feel more confident and more like they are making a difference which is important because the client is not sold ideas. The client is there to work with us on ideas. An Account Director is the team leader, the curator leading our cultural movement process, which liberates creativity and delivers effective communications,” says Drakenberg. 

In today’s cut-throat environment, former fame and glories are overshadowed by the ability to out-innovate while delivering business results. “What StrawberryFrog account people have done is understand that the traditional agencies and their structures do not stand for the systems of the future. The old way is expensive and time consuming, egotistical and pretentious. All the things that we think lead to bad work and bad creativity,” says Goodson.

From its founding as a global ad agency focused on doing more with less, creating cultural movements rather than ad campaigns, and for working with global iconic brands as huge as Emirates Airline, Heineken, Jim Beam, Google and in 2016 the Super Bowl launch of SunTrust and its movement, the agency has proven itself with clients big and small across many different geographies and categories.

Set on creating a new, nimble agency model, Drakenberg and Goodson wanted a name to set it apart from old-style agencies they considered dinosaurs. It occurred to them that frogs certainly are nimble and, as they bounced around ideas, Goodson came across the rare — and poisonous — StrawberryFrog (Strawberry Poison Dart Frog to be precise). The name is meant to embody agency goals — to be unique, agile, effective and fun. What about the poison part?

"One man's poison is another man's passion," says Goodson. "The name takes on a personality. We wanted to create a phenomenon, not a traditional agency."

In a move to bring some experience and perspective to the agency in its formative years, Goodson asked Uli Wiesendanger — the founding "W" of TBWA, a hot shop in the late 1980s that was acquired by holding company Omnicom and later merged with Chiat/Day — to be a partner in Strawberry Frog.

"I would never have wanted a 65-year-old in my agency," Wiesendanger says. "Young people today are much smarter." They may do business in smarter ways, too, Wiesendanger says. In the "old days" of advertising, many top executives got things done by being "scandalous and rude, and these guys are neither," he says. Drakenberg and Goodson and their team are "hugging people, not scandalizing people."

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