POV: Interview with Arnt Eriksen, Creative Director at Creuna
My name is Arnt Eriksen. I’m the creative director at Creuna, one of Nordic’s leading digital agencies. I live in Oslo with my wife Andrea, whom I met on Twitter back in 2008 — which is living proof that social media has made the world a smaller place.
I became interested in the graphical industry from my parents I guess. My dad is a printer and my mom used to work as a typist at the same print shop until they started their own print shop in 1982. I was working there every single weekend and vacation, looking at beautiful artwork and photos that were being produced. Of course my dad wanted me to take over the family business, but my interest was more into creating and designing the things that were being produced, not manufacturing them.
Therefore I started quite young. At only 16 years old, I was already in school, studying visual communication, graphic design and typography. I loved the craftsmanship, and after completing three years of school, I graduated as one of the top students. I was offered a job at an agency in Oslo and that was the starting point; I was fortunate enough to begin working with major brands from day one.
Over the years, I have worked for a lot of different agencies, small, medium and large. For five years, I ran my own agency that I later merged into the Nordic Agency Group, where I stayed for seven more years. In 2008, I was asked to be the link between the classic agency unit and the interactive unit and to explore the new opportunities that social media might present. From there, I dedicated more than 18 hours a day online, focusing on understanding all the strengths and possibilities that social media could offer from an advertising and marketing point-of-view. Later in 2009, as a result of the recession, I left the advertising agency I was a partner in to join one of the first social media agencies in the Nordics. From there, the journey brought me to Creuna, where I’m overseeing the creative work of junior and senior creatives and designers. I am responsible for the creative output, as well as making Creuna visible in the agency landscape. We’ve worked with amazing brands, such as Sony Ericsson, Google, Tropicana, Lofoten Black and Liverpool FC.
Tell us more about Creuna. What is your agency’s approach to your work? What differentiates Creuna in the market?
Strategy is key and something we focus strongly on in everything we do. Being a full-service digital agency, we have a stronghold in all aspects of the customer journey. We think cross-channel, 365 days a year through a holistic, multi-platform approach.
At Creuna, we are a partner that explores our clients’ business opportunities from all possible angles. We operate with a unique, interdisciplinary business concept and a leading position in Scandinavia, where we cover everything digital communications — from idea to action.
Our areas of work range from analytics, strategy, idea and concept, to design and technical implementation, as well as the ongoing improvement of our clients’ solutions. We create solutions within sales, marketing, branding and communication — digital solutions that make it easier for our clients to collaborate, produce and deliver. Our vision is something we strive for in everyday work and a promise we give our clients: “Unleashing the full potential of communication in the digital age.”
What trends in the design and communications industry do you find most exciting? What types of strategies are you including in your 2012 marketing plans?
We need to go back to basics — storytelling. I’m also excited about building on cross-channel campaigns and understanding the strengths of each channel and how to maximize the effects for the benefit of the client.
How does your agency try to incorporate Norwegian culture into creative strategies and tactics (i.e. design aesthetic, cultural norms)?
Norwegian culture is about the raw, simple experience, be it design, food or style — which you can see reflected in many of the jobs that are done not just at Creuna, but the other agencies as well. Simplicity in great form and functionality.
In your opinion, what strategies have brands from abroad employed to win favor with Norwegian consumers? Any that failed miserably?
Norway has a very protective attitude, which makes it harder for brands from abroad to succeed (with exception of the obvious). Another thing is that we are loyal to the extreme in this country. We are four times as loyal as other consumers, which also makes it four times as hard to convince a consumer to change his or her mind. This is both a challenge and an opportunity, which is why Norway is seen by many of the global brands to be the perfect test market; If it works here, it will work anywhere. In short, we love to protect our own national products, which is an attitude from the government as well. So I guess it is something we’re all born with. But then again, we love the American and British brands and can’t wait to buy and try them as soon as we cross the border.
As a creative director at Creuna, how do you foresee effective marketing strategies evolving over the next three to five years both abroad and in your region?
I think it is basically all about being open-minded, paying attention to the details about what is happening abroad and knowing how to use them effectively in our own market. And above all, be curious. Always explore the limits of the idea and find the optimal way to tell the brand or product story.
With what types of organizations do you personally, along with your agency, collaborate to ensure that you provide your clients with the most effective strategies and campaigns (i.e. research firms, translation consultants, freelancers)? How have these collaborative relationships benefitted your work in the past?
We always try to stay ahead with partners who are pushing forward to be product leaders within their special field. We are expected to unleash the full potential — which is also something we expect from all our partners. In this time and age, agencies are expected to be the hub and orchestrator so that the clients just need to deal with one supplier/connection point.
You are also the curator for re:think, a conference on social media and digital marketing. Tell us a little bit about why you created the conference and what insights you hope to bring attendees.
re:think is a result of my personal journey and involvement in social media that started in early 2008, which gave me the opportunity to establish connections and relationships in the international arena. Through a strong presence and active use, I have connected with thought leaders within digital and social media, speakers, organizations and so on.
The idea for re:think happened while I was staying in New York for a few weeks in the summer of 2009. I had some meetings scheduled with some of my connections in social media. Chris (@TEDChris) suddenly appeared in my follower list, and I was sure, in the beginning, that it had to be a mistake. But after a few tweets, he told me that he found my tweets interesting and that I was a good curator of relevant topics and news. I had the privilege to meet Chris that summer in New York, where we had a very pleasant conversation about different things related to TED and my ambitions for the future. I’ve attended a lot of different conferences, and what struck me was that at most of them, the speaker comes a few minutes before he goes on stage, speaks and then disappears. And most of the time, they give a keynote that is more inspirational than tangible. I wanted to do something different for the world of marketing, which has changed completely in the past decade. I felt it was time to CTRL-ALT-DEL and rethink the world of social business marketing, and that is how the idea of re:think came to life.
My position and vision has made it possible to create this intersection between people, corporations and some of the best speakers in their field.
I do hope that re:think will become the “TED” of social business marketing conferences, and I am working constantly to try to make that happen. It’s strenuous at times, but I love to be a part of something bigger and I want to make some kind of difference for my friends, colleagues and clients all over the world. This is the reason why I have launched the re:think initiative, which is an award that will be awarded to an organization that wants to “rethink” its digital marketing plan and strategy. The re:think initiative winner will be provided with financial assistance and consulting.
re:think is about making new and interesting connections using passion, inspiration and creativity as tools between people to find ways of finding and sharing knowledge. It’s a place to ignite and share the extraordinary ideas of individuals, teams and organizations by bringing together different disciplines and cultures to ignite a spark.
What obstacles, marketing or otherwise, will brands need to overcome over the next year to appeal to Norwegian businesses and consumers?
I think that brands need to rethink their marketing strategies, and actually embrace the concept of social business marketing as a whole. They need to be bold enough to think outside the traditional uses of media. Many brands and their media agencies are still focused on creating traditional advertising, and then adapting it to digital and social channels. Digital is no longer something that is on the side of the traditional marketing mix, but more a catalyst and amplifier when done right.
Describe the your own marketing ideas and principles
Well, throughout the years I’ve worked with quite a few great creatives, and I’ve picked up some great things from their brilliant brains. But, this has also clarified some clear ideas and principles that I have conformed into my own models and principles within marketing. One in particular is my focus on the customer journey within a cross-channel ecosystem. I’ve talked about it at some keynotes under the title, “The BRANDYOU Economy,” which will be published as a book as well. The model I’m referring to is “FIND, LIKE, LOVE.”
Cross-channel marketing will be an absolute focus for any corporation in the future, and it will provide the customer with a holistic approach in all channels. Optimization of content based on the various channels’ capabilities needs to be taken seriously. We need to create relevance and add value through unique and optimal customer experiences. If the customer gets a richer experience, it will highlight the value of the brand and help differentiate and provide a boost in brand and reputation.
Cross-channel marketing is about approaching the use of media channels based on the creative concept, optimized through bought, owned and earned media. The fact is that consumers want relevant communication across all the new channels, be it email, mobile, social networking or web. It’s hard to imagine shopping, working, reading, banking, job-hunting or social networking without the Internet; The web has completely changed the way we buy and sell products and services.
Cross-channel thinking is based on the fact that the consumer is online, offline, engaged, distracted, happy, annoyed, noisy or silent through any given period — a fact everyone has to deal with. Users require a more dynamic, informative and unpredictable communication. They require an effective, holistic approach that is based on their data and behavior.
Consumers are bombarded with impressions every day, which creates challenges of when to be visible and accessible in the digital channels. Therefore, it is important to be focused on the various phases that a consumer goes through during the interaction with a brand.
What types of campaigns resonate most with the Norwegian consumer? Humor? Luxury? Regional or local?
I would say that Norwegians like humorous advertising the best. But again, I’ve seen some campaigns that have won awards and the public’s opinion/heart because they are engaging, humorous and funny, but when you ask the person what brand was behind it, they can’t give the answer. Which to me is a challenge. I believe that the best way of communicating with the consumer is to produce a relevant, engaging and emotional message with a twist.
Many recent industry articles have discussed how our industry is losing top talent to tech and startups. How do you believe the advertising industry can best continue to attract young creative talent around the world? Anything you’re employing at Creuna that seems to work well?
I think we have to see the broader perspective in this matter. I think the advertising industry has to understand that times have changed, and we need to focus on offering challenging positions for young talent. We have to offer something beyond the typical advertising approach. That is somewhat more of a negative definition, since most agencies are more than that. Today’s clients have challenges within all aspects of their business, and we have to tell that story to the young talent and convince them that they can have meaningful, rewarding jobs within tech and within the agency world.
How do you believe the role of creative director in ad agencies will evolve over the coming years with ever more mediums being introduced and more complex “social” campaigns being sought after?
I think that the CD needs to stay up to speed with what is happening by involving his creatives, but also challenging them to stay up-to-date. I also think that the creative director role will evolve into more of an innovation-focused position — working across all disciplines by focusing on the creative craft and storytelling of a brand, independent of channel and media.
Mentor: Neville Brody, David Ogilvy, Seth Godin, Bill Burnbach, Malcom Gladwell
Must read book: “Tipping Point,” “Six Pixels of Seperation,” “Purple Cow.”
Music that gets you in your zone: John Mayer, John Coltrane, Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra, Jim Tomlinson and Stacy Clark.
Anything else you’d like to add? Like the late Steve Jobs said, “Stay foolish, Stay hungry!”