Blogfonk interviewed me in Fonk for Thoughts: Åsk Wäppling 2004.
BlogFonk: Who is Åsk Wäppling?
Wäppling: A geeky art director, mother of the adlist since '97, a turtle and many many cats. Collector of old Vespas, old computers, old TV-sets and new ideas. Born in northern Sweden, I proudly carry on the Viking tradition of globe trotting around the world. ;-)
BlogFonk: Do you love your work? Why?
Wäppling: Yes. I love solving problems, creating, inventing and advertising as a craft - sometimes too much. That's when one has to step back and realize that much of the population won't care that much about the specific word chosen to describe a diaper baby, or the printing quality of a poster. But I do.
BlogFonk: What is Adland all about?
Wäppling: When I first started it back in '96, it was a place to rant about twin ads and share some advertising books and advertising links. I soon realized by the feedback that many people had a rant or two in them, questions and network needs. So I built a CMS system in 2000 (these days you might call it a blog) where anyone could network in the forums, post news and adrants on the front page and watch commercials until their eyes become square. Since what happens on Mad Ave affects networked agencies everywhere else and the web is worldwide, so is our news. Adland is that fabled land where the creative and not-so creative advertising lives, and anyone in the industry can become a citizen.
BlogFonk: Do you think weblogs, which follow advertising trends, have added value towards ad agencies?
Wäppling: I think all weblogs have something to give depending on how you use them.
You can research how people really feel about your brand on people's journals, you can use targeted weblogs to spread specific news about your agency. Let the strategy-oriented weblogs know about your change of tactics, send in your latest work to us, alert adverblog to your latest new media campaign, leak out viral-ads via blogs and ad-blogs and so on.
I wouldn't be surprised if keeping track of the 'right' blogs for certain releases will become part of the press-package at agencies, if it isn't already.
BlogFonk: Is there difference in mentality of creatives in the countries you've worked?
Wäppling: Not really, creatives fit certain stereotypes wherever you go. There's the 'work-smart-not-hard' guy who clocks off at 5 to pick his kids up from school, the never-stop-working types who scribble on napkins at bars until the wee hours, the cynical whiners, the hacks and rip-off artists, the 'good-enough' creatives who never put up a fight for anything with the motto 'pick your battles', and the utterly crazy creatives who passionately come up with one groundbreaking idea after another can be found in every country. The only thing that really changes is the language (including the visual) which they speak. Every single country has someone who says: 'This country is not so ad-literate, we can't do that ad here. Maybe that ad would fly in [insert other supposedly more ad-literate country here].' Seriously.
Every country I have looked for work in has at least one agency head that says with a straight face: 'We do very Danish/Swedish/Dutch/French advertising here.' Seems they forget that creatives can sell expensive cars to rich old men, even though they themselves bike, tampons to women, even though they are men, and diapers to mothers, even though they are childless. It's our job to communicate to people in various 'cultures' - be it a national one, or a target groups culture. We research and get on with it, cultural insight doesn't have to come from being born within it, but can come from observing it with an open mind.
BlogFonk: What are the latest important developments you've noticed in advertising?
Wäppling: The web. Still not mastered by most agencies, still the wild west of new 'media'. Banners die and virals spread - intentional or not. Some forget that the web is made of people, and people aren't that easy to control, so the web is still the cutting edge battlefield where ideas die or take on a life of their own - and I hope it will never be 'tamed'. It's not one 'media', it's a million.
Another development to keep an eye on is the ad-creep, 'fake' blogs and websites, ad-bots on IM, people chatting you up at bars to sell X mineral water or showing off their camera-phone, ads on money, public city walls, in urinals and everywhere else, and how people are reacting to it. It's not just the anarchist hippies that are hating advertising intrusion into everything and everywhere, soccer-moms and average Joe are getting in to it too. If we aren't careful, soon every pitch in any context will sound like Viagra-spam to people and they will stop listening completely.
Targeting your advertising message is top priority today, don't just use the new media because 'it's there'. Clamping down on SPAM should have been our industries top priority in '95 - it's nearly killed the great invention of email, with so many blacklists and barriers in place. Do we really want to make people stop talking to strangers in 2008 because 'it's probably just a spam-pitch' as well? The industry does have a responsibility - to itself. Or as a friend always says: 'Don't shit where you eat!'
BlogFonk: Which project/work for a client are you most proud of?
Wäppling: Oh dear, I can only pick one? Two compete for attention in my mind. The first was when Marcel, a tattoo artist client, came with a simple brief 'make me famous'. We graffitied the whole city with the tag 'At least Tattoos are permanent' signed Marcel, using temporary red spray [which really was temporary unlike other such campaigns] back in '98.
Marcel had the police visit him twice, which amused him, and he demonstrated with a bucket of water that the tags did come off with rain. Later we ran posters where the image slowly vanished.
Ink-magazines all over the world picked up on this campaign and soon Marcel has an entire wall full of clippings, feeling very famous indeed. He crowned the clipping wall with an Epica diploma, and was so happy about the results that he wanted to ink me right then and there. He did. It was just great to see him so happy about his newfound notoriety.
In a similar vein, I did get a 'thank you' card from UNICEF after an ad I made pulled in nearly three million Danish kronor to help children in Afghanistan, better results than any other ad. They were so pleased with it. Talk about warm fuzzy feeling inside, better than any award.
BlogFonk: If you'd be given the chance to do something over again, what would that be?
Wäppling: Like every AD, I want to kern fonts or fix something for just 'five more minutes', but in life I have no regrets.
[thinks very hard for a minute]. Okay, I'd release the clutch slower when I was driving my 1964 Vespa Popolino down the street, so I wouldn't jump-crash into that shop-window. That hurt, and the scooter never really did recover.
BlogFonk: Finally, what is your motto, your 'Fonk for Thoughts' (inspriration to be creative)?
Wäppling: You can sing it: 'Inside out... Upside down, round and round.' Start by looking at anything from the opposite view, or inside out - turn the problem around.