Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

A Fireside Chat with Hugo Wallmo

Advertising Agency
Stockholm, Sweden
The Åkestam Holst creative star behind the 'coughing billboard' and IKEA 'pee ad' reflects on his approach
Along with his former creative partner Evelina Rönnung, Hugo Wallmo is responsible for what is probably be the world's first pee-activated advertisement

Doubling as a pregnancy test, the print ad for IKEA promoted the brand's Sundvik crib for babies. A strip with an enhanced version of the technology used in pregnancy tests was integrated into the ad. If the user was pregnant, the price shown on the ad dropped, giving them a discount.

It's a project that says a lot about the way both Hugo and his agency Åkestam Holst do things. His work gets people talking. Just check out the coughing billboard or the (NSFW) dick pic monument.

LBB's Alex Reeves had a quick chat with Hugo to get to know him and his approach to creativity.

LBB> I hear you're a special fan of UK food advertising. What's that about?

Hugo> Haha, I guess I just like simplicity. When it comes to food-related advertising they’re often based on very basic insights which I found very refreshing. Someone once told me that the best ideas are created by the most lazy creatives. Because these ideas would end up being so simple and easy even the most lazy people on the streets would understand. I highly disagree with that. I don’t think anything good or worth watching comes from someone being lazy while creating it. And it really shouldn’t. But either way, if it’s laziness or down right smartness, I’m buying it. 

LBB> The Berghs School of Communication is world famous for turning out amazing creatives. What was your experience there like?

Hugo> I had two great years there, it was just the perfect balance between feeling really, really worthless one week to borderline on showboating the next one. When I started I had the opportunity to come in at a time when the eyes of the world were already on the school thanks to talented students before, which made it a very good platform. But as anything in life it’s really up to you what you make of that.

For me personally, I’m still, to this day, so glad I teamed up with Evelina Rönnung during that time. We really complemented each other in a perfect way for those years. 

LBB> Your IKEA 'pee ad' was a huge success. Where did the idea come from?

Hugo> The idea came up as any other idea actually, nothing really special there. If something with that idea process would be extraordinary it would be the fact that the idea of someone peeing on an ad didn’t stop right then and there, with us thinking ”this idea is too gross” or ”too weird”, instead it snowballed and we eventually took it all the way. From an idea to the actual printed ad.

LBB> The coughing billboard also got tonnes of attention. What was your process working on that?

Hugo> In my book this project truly shows the best side of Åkestam Holst’s culture. Even though all the clients have dedicated teams and well oiled processes, it's always okay to interrupt that well oiled everyday work with something outside the box. For this campaign we joined forces with Lars, the art director who knows the style and look of Apotek Hjärtat like the back of his hand and he helped us adapt this idea into that. And the same goes for Mariette, the copywriter for Apotek Hjärtat who helped us set just the right tone of voice for the campaign that then went live in the end of 2016 on digital billboards in Stockholm.

LBB> You only started at Åkestam Holst a couple of years ago but you've already worked on several campaigns that got huge international attention. Do you think that says something about the way the agency works?

Hugo> Definitely, It’s a very flat agency when it comes to hierarchy, which is a quite simply recipe for bringing out the best in people. And bringing out stuff you really believe in. 

LBB> Your creative partner Evelina recently headed to Forsman & Bodenfors. Are you looking for a new teammate? If so, what sort of person?

Hugo> I already have one, since May earlier this year I’m working together with Petter Nylind. One of Åkestam Holst’s latest and, if I might add, strongest recruits. Not only a brilliant copywriter  but also a guy with the biggest heart. People outside the office think we’ve been a creative team for ages and I take that as a compliment.

LBB> How would you describe your style of creativity, compared to other art directors?

Hugo> Hmm, by just Googling my own name it seems like I have some sort of love for project that have the word ‘ad’ or ‘billboard’ already stated in the title. It’s either a billboard that coughs or it’s a bunch of billboards that go beyond the borders of IRL to URL or it's a print ad that doubles as a magnified pregnancy test.

But, I guess apart from that I like to see myself challenging every first thought that comes into mind. That process used to be me starting off with the thought of what would the most outrageous thing to do here and then work backwards from that, trying very hard to fight the ordinary way of things. But I’m also very humble to the fact that you need to know all the rules before you can break them, and hey, I’m still learning.

LBB> Do you have an big passions outside of advertising that keep you energised?

Hugo> Running and reading, sometimes both at the same time. 

Work from Åkestam Holst
The Big M*c Update
MAX Burgers
Mission Talita
Talita Sweden