REKORDER, the Berlin-based film and photography creative production studio, is proud to support LBB. Over the upcoming months, as part of the sponsorship of the German Edition, we will celebrate creativity and introduce some of the most innovative and creative minds in the industry.
In this interview, LBB speaks with Nadine Müller-Eckel, head of strategy at Anomaly, who shares the powerful influences of her mother, the creative richness of her city and what the secret to excellence really is.
LBB> What were your influences and inspirations growing up?
Nadine> Growing up in the GDR, my mother was the best in class, but wasn’t allowed to study as she didn’t support the political system. After the Berlin wall came down, she worked as an ice cream seller, pizza maker, shoe seller and bakery sales assistant. She became a widow when she turned 38 and she died of an aneurysm at the age of 61 - just a few months after the birth of my second daughter. Life can be pretty cynical. But my mother always loved hers. The people she met and worked with through her various jobs, the influence she had on everyone, the love of her life she spent 20 years with, the new partner who gave her back hope and the two kids she centred her life around and who lived by what she had passed onto them. It was her resilience that brought happiness to her life. She taught us that good things will find their way if you stay humble, optimistic, patient and ambitious. And this stuck with me (although my husband Till wouldn’t agree with the ‘patience’ part).
LBB> At what point did you know a career in the ad industry was the right one?
Nadine> I knew that a career in this industry was the right one when I stopped dreaming about a career in journalism. And that was right after I saw the epic “wind” campaign from Nordpol. Funnily enough, I applied to Nordpol when I graduated from university but got rejected.
LBB> Over the course of your career, you’ve spent the bulk of your time working in Berlin. How have you seen the city’s creative culture change and evolve throughout that time?
Nadine> What a great question. And what a hard one. I want to start by answering from a broader creativity perspective.
Just last week I was having dinner with my friend Nadine Nedreboe who also happens to be group creative director at Anomaly. We were talking about how we’d sometimes wonder if moving outside of Berlin would be an option. Yes, Berlin has become more commercial, and yes, we ourselves are part of its gentrification. And yes, the rising costs of living make it harder and harder for creative talent to just pack their bags and live off their craft in Berlin.
But then again, the possibilities to be inspired, challenged and surprised by the Berlin creative scene are just endless - be it through art, music, dance, film… The beauty of Berlin might also be its biggest weakness - it’s potentially the most open city in Europe. And all these different influences have shaped Berlin into what it is today. You can love it (which I do, most of the time) or loathe it. But what is inarguable is that the diversity of perspectives melting in one city is as rich as it gets.
Over the course of the last years we can also see how the ad industry has started to embrace this openness - slowly but steadily. And what is even more noticeable is the rise in diversity of creative shops with different offers and scales. This has the potential to foster an interesting competitive landscape, shaping the creative industry in a way that it might be able to attract future creative talent again (one of the major problems the industry is currently facing).
LBB> Tell us a little bit about your role at Anomaly and how you’ve evolved the company over the past year.
Nadine> As head of strategy I am responsible for further developing our total strategy offer at Anomaly as one key business pillar, and first and foremost as an accelerator for unreasonable creative work. By ‘total strategy’ we mean fostering a practice that houses brand, creative, cultural, transformation, innovation strategy in one department. Thanks to the utterly talented, international and diverse strategy squad, we’ve been lucky enough to thrive in this area. But of course there’s still a lot of ground to be conquered.
As a co-leader of the company, I have the honour to work side by side with six fantastic humans and incredible talents - CEO and partner Simon; our MD David; Arabella, our head of ops; Clara, EU head of design; Michael, EU head of production and - I couldn’t be more excited - our new ECD, Leila El-Keyem. What a force they are.
Looking back at what Anomaly has achieved in only five years is just so amazing. When I started in November 2021, I was employee number 50. Now we are over 80 people. We were lucky enough to increase our growth even in challenging times - in terms of clients, projects and people. And with that growth, topics such as sustaining a culture of creativity, investing in the right talents, building out the right processes and operations to champion our increased size, developing a local footprint in and outside the industry and most importantly staying true to our Anomaly values have been a key focus for the past months. That last topic is something we will never get tired of working on. So, while we are not the new kid on the block anymore, we will continue to keep the Anomaly spirit. Through our work, our POV, our people and our ways of working. And looking at the year ahead, times are getting even tougher. But then again, tougher times also demand an Anomaly.
LBB> Anomaly is a response to the widespread recognition in the industry that “the models are all broken” and “the traditional solutions are all becoming less and less effective.” What does this mean to you and how does it play out in your everyday role and through the company?
Nadine> In a nutshell, it means that we orbit around the challenge not the channel. So before diving into a specific solution, we spend a fair amount of time on the actual problem we are trying to solve. This also means surrounding ourselves with as many perspectives as possible, to ensure we are really homing in on the right thing. From there, everyone heads towards one unreasonable goal, armed with their unique craft and skill set.
Anomaly was founded nearly 20 years ago, so we know we are not the only shop in the world - or in Berlin - that claims to do things differently. But I can say with confidence that we’re not resting on our laurels, but keep on challenging ourselves - globally. What it means to be an Anomaly might be different in 2023 than what it meant in 2007 - but the spirit remains the same and so does the ambition to solve a real problem through the power of media agnostic creativity - in whatever shape it comes.
LBB> Looking back over your career, which projects or pieces of work which stand out as especially significant for you?
Nadine> Oh gosh, this reminds me of how old I am! I would love to say the first ever project I worked on - but I can’t actually remember what it was. So it wasn’t that significant, I suppose.
Seriously, though, there have been so many projects that stand out for different reasons - significantly great opportunities such as working on the Netflix DACH launch campaign, the global Boss Bottled campaign or helping build an automotive hub for Opel at Heimat; significantly frustrating pitch losses; significantly rewarding ones when working for clients like Google or Hinge; significantly enriching ones as I get to work with this incredible Anomaly squad every day. But it all comes down to projects or pieces of work that significantly challenge my thinking and view on the world.
LBB> And finally, what is the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?
Nadine> Two examples come to mind: my mother told me in first grade: you are, and you will never be, better than anyone. This simple truth has impacted every stage of my being - also my career. Understanding that (human) excellence comes from a place of humility. Be it as a junior who values the opportunity to work with and to listen to all shapes of people who help you grow. Or be it as a more senior leader who embraces the fact that growth comes from all places - especially from aspiring talents.
And my very first boss, Robert Stolle, gave me a wonderful piece of advice that I always have in the back of my head and have passed on to others a few times already: Learn to say “no”, so you can focus on embracing the “yes”.