New York ad agency KBS+ opened its Chinese outpost in Shanghai in 2015. The agency was part of MDC, a global holding company that also owned Forsman & Bodenfors, the renknown creative Swedish agency. Besides being in the USA and China, KBS+ was also in Canada, while F&B was in Sweden and Singapore. In September 2018, both firms joined forces to create a global agency under F&B’s name. The match was motivated by affinities in their working styles and company cultures, both already prone to collaboration.
2015年，纽约广告公司KBS+在上海开设了中国分部。该广告公司隶属于MDC，而MDC则是一家全球性的控股公司，旗下还有著名的瑞典创意广告公司Forsman & Bodenfors。除了在美国与中国市场经营，KBS+在加拿大有分部，而F&B在瑞典和新加坡均设有办公室。这两家企业的工作方式和公司文化很相似，志趣相投也都有想要结伴而行的意愿，于是2018年9月，两家公司一拍即合，联手以F&B的名义成立了一家全球代理公司。
SHP+ had a conversation with Douglas Lin, Planner | Partner & CEO, and Sherry Shi, Writer | Executive Creative Director of F&B Shanghai, on what sets them apart from other advertising players in China.
SHP+有幸采访到了合伙人兼首席执行官Douglas Lin和F&B上海作家兼执行创意总监Sherry Shi，并就他们与中国其他广告公司的异同进行了交流。
“Perhaps the most significant difference between us and the other networks is that we don’t consider ourselves a network. We consider ourselves a “Collective”. Each of office runs independently, our own decision-making authority,” Lin says. He adds that not having someone dictating directions is a desirable difference from a corporate culture perspective.
Douglas Lin (planning) Yangwei Wu (creative) on set
Another sought-after characteristic of a collective culture is the creation of a support system. In F&B’s case, it allows them to play on each offices strengths to leverage the international arena. “Our Häagen-Dazs campaign is the perfect example,” says Shi. “The clients global office is in London; their number one market is China, and they’re also powerful across Europe. They wanted a creative solution that worked globally. Hence, our Shanghai and Stockholm offices worked on globally co-creating ideas and concepts versus translating or trasncreating ideas accross different markets.”
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The strong bond between the Chinese and Swedish teams begun before the merger, during the shooting of Marriage Market Takeover a much-awarded campaign for the Japanese skin-care brand SK-II. Lead by Bodenfors Sweden, the documentary-style film throws light on the “leftover women.” The unflattering label describes women that haven’t been married off yet—to their parent’s great disappointment. Particularly in the end, with the take over of Shanghai’s infamous “marriage market,” the film sends a powerful message of empathy, not just to woman in China but across the world.
两家公司合并之前，中国和瑞典两个团队早就已经处得非常融洽了，在为日本护肤品牌SK-II拍摄《她最后去了相亲角》期间双方团队就曾有过合作。这部由Bodenfors Sweden主导摄制的纪录片式的短片聚焦在“剩女”这个话题上。“剩女”这个不受欢迎的标签是指那些到了适婚年龄却还未婚的女性 —— 这让她们的父母非常失望。而在影片的最后，随着上海饱受争议的“相亲角”被占领，这部电影不仅向中国女性，也向全世界的女性传递了强大的正能量。
In traditional agencies, highly international projects can be problematic because the different units involved get very protective. However, F&B is happy to share the workload with whatever office makes more sense, no matter who the client contacts first.
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Lin insists his team had an international mindset from the beginning. They were never essentially American while under KBS+, nor Swedish after the merger. Composed mainly by young Chinese professionals, the team is representative of modern China with a global oriention. Still, the synchrony with their Swedish counterparts emerged as a surprise: what could Shanghai have in common with Gothenburg and Stockholm? That’s what everybody kept thinking.
林坚信他的团队从一开始就具备国际化的思维。在KBS+时期他们就不是全员美籍，合并后也不是清一色的瑞典成员。这个团队主要由中国青年专业人士组成，是现代中国的代表，且具有全球视野。尽管如此，上海与瑞典同行的意外同步还是令人不禁要问: 上海与哥德堡和斯德哥尔摩有什么共同点呢? 这是萦绕在大家心头的疑惑。
“At first, we were astonished that our offices worked in similar ways. With time, we realized that most of us in leadership positions came from large 4A networks—but were left unsatisfied with the weakness, especially in regards to creative cultures,” Lin says.
Shuo Zhou (client service) and Ona Wu (creative) preparing talent on set
Such feelings of dissatisfaction paved the way for new progressive ways of working, more comparable to a startup than a multinational. A flat organization culture is perhaps the most obvious. “In most agencies, you go into a meeting to find thirteen or fifteen people sitting around a table, but only two people talking. All the others are just sitting there, taking notes, or fetching drinks. In our culture, everyone shares the responsibility – members with less experience are empowered and confident enough to present to C-level clients,” Lin says.
“We also have a process called ‘The Floor,'” Shi says, referring to a method they created across global offices to boost creativity. “You throw your ideas on the floor and everyone can add to it and give feedback. Literally, everybody from our senior creatives to receptionists can contribute and add to an idea.”
Such as in a startup, Lin kept his team from growing too quickly. They currently are twenty-five people in Shanghai, with plans to hire approximately five more in 2021. Their philosophy is that within a smaller agency, everyone is essential and potentially disruptive. Besides, the relatively small size allows for their much-valued autonomy and flexibility, which ultimately leads them to outperform the competition.
2020 Staff Photo
F&B Shanghai rarely advertises open positions. But that’s not to say that they don’t welcome new talent. “If you’re the type of person who we want, we’ll shift things around and find a place for you” Lin says. To him, “fit” is just as critical component as skills and experience in the hiring process and makes a substantial difference in job performance.
In the film realm, before travel restrictions, F&B worked with several foreign production houses spanning from South Africa to Thailand. Like most agencies in the industry, they’re limited to the Chinese offering for the time being. Either way, their choice of whom to work with always has inspiration as a driving force. “It’s hard to describe this feeling. It’s totally intangible. There’s just chemistry when somebody understands your creative vision. After you present the concept, you feel connected with the director, the team, and the cast they offer. It’s a “wow” type of feeling,” says Shi.
Yangwei Wu and Sherry Shi (creatives) on set
The collective also shares a common goal: to make the world more sustainable and diverse. F&B firmly believes that creativity can be part of the solution. They go as far as actively reaching out to specific industries and companies that they think can positively impact the world.
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Furthermore, the offices of Shanghai and Singapore were the first in Asia to be certified by The 3% Movement. That means that they encourage industries to promote gender equality. F&B as a whole was the first multinational company in the world to have every office certified.
“Most people think that advertising is a bad thing. But when it’s done the right way, it can make the world a better place. If you look at a lot of our clients and the work we are doing, it’s about inclusion, empowerment, diversity—It’s also about bringing China into the global stage in a positive way,” says Lin.