“Death of the dinosaurs… Birth of the unicorn babies.” Anders Wahlquist’s summation of the Los Angeles ad scene is likely applicable to any major ad hub around the world but, in his opinion, is even more the case in the Californian city.
And he’s well placed to know. The founder and CEO of B-Reel moved to LA after more than 10 years in Stockholm (in his native Sweden), six in New York and three in Berlin. “Many of the big agencies are struggling out here it seems. There are some big openings and silent closings a couple of years later. The traditional agency landscape is not so interesting in LA and the new, exciting needs that modern clients have are served by different entities.”
It’s one thing to acknowledge the changing times of our industry, and another to address those changes and adapt. With B-Reel, and in LA particularly, Anders has been setting his sights on product development as a form of creation with the backbone for survival.
“Products are getting increasingly technological, and have components that are online or cloud-based, intangibly created from digits, not from material,” he muses. “You need to be deeply entrenched in that world and how people use these products, in order to find the right way to communicate with them. Traditional channels fade, and a myriad new ones rise. It is a completely new world, and either you get it or not. It is worthwhile to get it. It’s probably very non-profitable to not get it.”
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos agrees. In 2012 he said: “In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.”
“Their focus on product innovation and subsequent success is the testament to the trends’ accuracy,” adds Anders. “For agencies, this is maybe mostly felt in the access to talent so far. We lose the young innovators to startups, where they work on products, instead of coming to the ad world. But those agencies who don’t get it and don’t adapt will feel it on the number side too.”
The continued growth of Silicon Beach, LA’s tech hub, plays perfectly into the hands of companies like B-Reel, he believes. He’s seeing more and more tech companies opt to open in LA instead of San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, teased south by warmer weather, more diverse culture, and a rental market that hasn’t yet reached the eye-watering heights of SF. That healthy churn of new business and new products gives rise to the need for communications agencies to help strategise and position them.
“For us it’s a bullseye as we are doing the above, as well as innovation around product development, UX, UI and design. It is allowing for a much more interesting ad landscape than LA had 10 years ago when we moved here.”
It doesn’t stop there, either. Anders believes that, with the growth of Silicon Beach intermingling with the evolution of Hollywood, LA is creatively stronger right now than both New York and London - both cities historically with more traditional advertising clout.
“The combination of experiences that Hollywood is mastering, and the interaction magic from Silicon Valley makes it surpass some classic adland hotspots like London and NYC, at least for modern agencies,” he says.
A recent example of B-Reel LA’s actual work in this space is a breathing app that’ll be released later this year. Anders tells us that it uses start of the art techniques from therapists, trainers and athletes to get users in the right of mind for any situation - an increasingly important issue as anxiety and depression levels continue to rise
. “We think it is going to change the approach to anything from a big meeting to trying to get to sleep at night,” Anders says.
They’re also working with Google on numerous projects, one of which is the Pixel Live Wallpapers
, which adopt in real time to the Pixel handset and its surrounding. They’ve been working on that for the past three years and picked up some metal in Cannes for it in 2016. "Another project to call out is Hublot Digital Boutique, which extends the shopping experience of Hublot's flagship store into an online experience in real time," Anders reveals.
Outside of commercial creativity, Anders is also pumped for the state of the city that he now calls home (although don’t get him started on the lack of bike lanes).
“LA’s cultural scene is very alive, as younger artists can find a place to live and work here. The city's cool spots are not all taken by money. And there is innovation going on everywhere, in all different fields.
“Now is the most interesting time, ever. Frightening in many ways, but very, very exciting.”