Having worked for eight years at DuvalGuillaume - an iconic Belgian agency in the ‘90s - Jens Mortier founded the independent agency mortierbrigade in 2004, with three partners in crime. The agency went on to become iconic in its own right. And ever since Jens has been one of the brightest creative lights of the Belgian advertising scene on a global stage.
The agency has remained independent all that time and has built itself up to become a favourite spot for creative talent to develop themselves, working with both international and Belgian clients to establish itself as one of the most successful agencies in Belgian history. To date it’s won more than 30 Cannes Lions, becoming a member of the global FWA hall of fame, three Eurobest Grands Prix, eight Effie Awards and many others.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Jens to find out more.
LBB> Where did you grow up and what sort of kid were you?
Jens> I grew up in Antwerp, Belgium, surrounded by a whole lotta love, great music and good humour. When I was 12, I assembled cars with spare parts, and played in a band. I was (and still am) a curious kid. Always on the look for fun and adventure, and things I haven’t done before.
LBB> When did you first show an interest in advertising?
Jens> My father was the editor-in-chief of a popular magazine, and he created the advertising too. He inspired me most to be very demanding and brave. And next to that I’ve always loved the great work that was being created in the UK by BBH, and in Holland at that time in the ‘90s (the beautiful ‘Apeldoorn – Just call us’ saga!) and hated the rubbish. With my big mouth I thought I could do that better.
LBB> How did you end up in your first job as a creative? What was the industry like back then?
Jens> I was 27, and I was still in puberty... Didn’t really know what to do back then, so I tried lots of different things. I rented an apartment, and the landlord told me his brother worked in advertising, and maybe that was something for me. That brother was André Duval. He was CEO of TBWA Brussels back then, and he gave me the opportunity to do an internship as a copywriter, in 1995. And for the first time in my life, I felt like: “YES! I like this.” And I started working hard, also for the first time in my life. In 1996 André quit TBWA to start DuvalGuillaume together with Guillaume Vander Stighelen. André asked my art director and me to join him. And three years later in 1999, I became creative director and managing partner.
LBB> What were some early brands or projects you worked on that helped shape your approach to creativity?
Jens> DuvalGuillaume was *the* shit at that time, with a focus on creativity, and as a team we got lots of work, support and opportunities. In no time we were Belgium's most awarded agency. And later we started winning abroad too, with crazy work for Axion Youth Bank, for example.
LBB> When you started mortierbrigade in 2004, what was your biggest ambition?
Jens> We had high ambitions, we wanted to rewrite the future of advertising in Belgium and beyond. We’re still working on it!
LBB> And what is the thing you're most proud of as an agency since?
Jens> Every ambitious creative dreams to be on stage in Cannes to pick up a Gold Lion. We’ve been there a few times, and we can’t get enough of it. This year we won a Gold in film with Eternal Pregnancy for Equal Pay Day, but due to the bloody coronavirus, we couldn’t go on stage.
LBB> What are you recently most proud of and why?
Jens> I’m really proud of the team we put together. A great bunch of brilliant people and great characters too. It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with them.
LBB> What are your biggest frustrations about the ad industry today?
Jens> Our credo is ‘who dares wins’ but nowadays a lot of advertisers are very prudent, and afraid of saying something that anyone would find inappropriate. It’s harder than ever to get some brave work through. Luckily, we only have smart and brave clients!
LBB> And on the flipside, what do you find most inspiring about it?
Jens> We are now part of an independent group in Belgium, and we’re building on a bigger story with lots of different expertise. It’s great to meet all these new talents and disciplines. And we joined By the Network, founded by Per Pedersen, with some of the best independent agencies in the world. It’s really very inspiring to work with these great minds.
LBB> What, for you, is most inspiring in the Belgian cultural scene right now?
Jens> When in Belgium, go to the Tim Van Laere Gallery
in Antwerp to watch the artist Rinus van de Velde. When it comes to music I recommend Balthazar, a band from Ghent with a unique sound. And of course the indie pop duo TwinToes, featuring one of our creatives. For their debut single and in order to make it into the Official Spotify Playlist, they put 33 official playlists in their song. Watch it here: