25 questions for 25 years
One man, one client, one agency for one quarter of a century
It’s certainly unusual for someone to stay at one advertising shop for 25 years, but to work exclusively for one client? That’s pretty rare. Which makes Jeppe Fonnesbæk a kind of…unicorn.
To celebrate his 25 years at Advance spearheading the LEGO account, we all pitched in to ask him 25 random questions, which he had to answer in 25 minutes.
How would you describe yourself in 25(ish) words?
Passionate, energetic, impatient, sometimes nice, sometimes difficult, competitive, demanding, understanding, irritating probably, and and and….out of ideas.
How did you even get hired at Advance in the first place?
Contrary to popular legend in the office, I have worked on other clients apart from LEGO. Advance actually employed me to work for a brand called Flügger. I worked on that account for a while, but very quickly got involved started working exclusively on the LEGO account. I think everyone just recognized how easily I can access my inner child.
What was the first LEGO project you ever worked on?
Oh yes…LEGO Znap. I did some other small projects before but Znap was the first project that I managed. It was a new building system which was supposed to compete against a brand called K’nex. No-one has heard of either of them ever since but it was a fun project to cut my teeth on.
What has kept you at Advance for 25 years and how do you stay motivated?
I guess it’s the seductive cocktail of working with a brand and product that I love and have seen evolve so much over time, plus being part of a company with a strong and positive culture and talented colleagues. There’s never a dull moment on the LEGO account and we have a strong and stable team of colleagues and partners here at Advance. Couldn’t ask for a better mix, to be honest.
Which three LEGO projects best describe your 25 years at Advance?
#1 The oldie but goodie would have to be Bionicle. It was a theme we developed together with LEGO Company and was a great experience in so many ways. The collaboration with the LEGO designers, marketing, and all the markets was outstanding; we were on a mission together. That it was a huge success for over a decade was just the cherry on the cake.
#2 LEGO Universe, a massive multiplayer online game, where we worked together with the team in Billund and the game developer in Denver. It was a very cool game and we got to create some very differentiated communication. It didn’t live long but was an interesting foray into the gaming world.
#3 – The LEGO Adults campaigns that we are working on now. It is really exciting doing these global launch campaigns for all kinds of people and is an arena in which the team can really go to town and make cool creative work.
“Jeppe is skilled at bringing the whole team together so that everyone contributes and adds value. He always cuts to the bone strategically, as well as conceptually. But as much as he can create great results, he always ensures a good energy and mood on the teams and we always know he’s in the same building because of his laugh.”
- Lena Dixen, Senior Vice President at the LEGO Group
How would you describe the LEGO team at Advance, what do you think differentiates it from other client teams?
Nerdy, committed, and cool. These are people who genuinely think LEGO is the coolest brand and feel lucky to come to work every day. There is a good energy, atmosphere, and culture in the team because people love what they are doing.
What is one thing you always have on your desk?
A mess. Every six months I clean it up and then it takes two weeks to become a mess again. I don’t have anything other than a computer and a mess on my desk.
What is one tip you would give your younger self?
Work isn’t everything. I used to work a lot and wanted everything to be perfect. I’m a little more relaxed now and know things tend to work out in the end.
What percentage of table football games have you won?
Good question. I think 84% - maybe 86%. The other 14% I ‘lose’ in order to keep morale up in the agency :)
One benefit and one downfall of having such a deep-rooted knowledge of the client?
If I wanted to change job, it would be pretty hard at this point. Unless it was for LEGO directly. But the good thing is that I am now such a veteran and have had so much experience working on one of the world’s top brands…which hopefully makes me good at what I do.
Your relationship with LEGO has lasted longer than most marriages! How do you keep it fresh?
That’s easy… If you love your work, it hopefully shines through to all the people that you’re working with. And I never take it for granted. I always remember that you are never better than the last project you did. You can do well for 20 years but in this business, nobody will remember if you then mess up. But then again, I have a winner mentality, so underperforming is never an option.
Do you have any tips for strong client relations?
Have an open and honest dialogue, so you can share your opinion and the client theirs. If you are afraid of disagreeing with the client, then you shouldn’t be in this business. Listen and put yourself in the shoes of the person working on the other side of the table. Understanding their motivation is crucial for good client service – basically if you make them look like rock stars, you’ve done your job well.
One fun fact about you?
Every Saturday, I work as a shop assistant in my wife’s French vintage shop selling brocante.
How has working with LEGO changed you?
I suppose that I have been working so long with my colleagues in Billund, that I am as ‘jysk’ as they are.
If you weren’t an ad man, what would you do?
Probably be an entrepreneur. It is of course high risk, but I would be in full control.
“Jeppe sets the bar high, urging those around him to aim even higher. He is always on a mission to deliver the best work possible, and he expects the same from others. Jeppe brings a multitude of ideas and insights to every table he sits at, inspiring those around him. His dedication is unwavering, and his energy is a vital force that carries the whole LEGO team.”
Camilla Grove Pelle, Co-CEO and Partner at Advance
How do you help keep your colleagues motivated?
Fear and aggravation. No, seriously, hopefully they feel my passion and desire to deliver a strong creative result.
Describe your work persona versus your home persona, is there a difference?
Of course I act differently around family and friends. At work I’m pushier and can be impatient, because it is all about delivering a good result and having a happy client. At home, I don’t dare push my wife.
How do you stay in shape?
I bike a lot. Well, just enough to balance out the amount of sweets I eat.
What are the biggest changes you have witnessed at LEGO?
There have been two big changes at LEGO: their financial turn around from having problems in the early 2000’s to becoming a massive success. And secondly, built upon that success, exploding from a toy company from the Danish countryside to an influential global brand.
What is the greatest change you have witnessed at Advance?
We are one of the few agencies that have been extremely steady over the years. Of course, people come and go but if you have a strong culture, it doesn’t have a huge overall effect. When I started, we had around 25 people and there has been gradual growth in the business since then.
“Jeppe says that he doesn’t like words…but as a Very Creative Client Service Director, he has coined some of our most popular expressions. Because of his way with words, our motto and modus operandi as a team is “We are all fighting in the same boat.” The truth is, working with Jeppe, we are all fighting for the same thing, to do our best work for a client that we love. He cares about the creative work and always stands with us as a team. CONGRATULATIONS JEPPE!”
Trudy Follwell, Creative Director at Advance
What is the biggest change you have witnessed in the adverting industry?
Of course, there have been huge changes in the media landscape and how we reach people, SoMe etc etc. But what is interesting is what hasn’t changed…which is the importance of the good idea.
What do you think you’re best at?
Even though I’m a Client Service Director, I care a lot for creative ideas and execution. I think I’m pretty good at helping spot the good creative ideas. I’m also good at making quick decisions so we can move forward. I get frustrated by a lot of endless discussion.
What is the thing about you that has changed the most in the last 25 years?
Experience. With experience comes the knowledge of how things work, and it becomes easier to navigate through everything with confidence and ease of mind. I don’t get stressed about the things I did in my youth. I’m also way more wrinkled. That’s a big change.
One piece of advice you have for young professionals in the industry when it comes to navigating the current state of the world, the economy, etc.?
Don’t worry about things you can’t change including economic crises etc – it’s not worth the time and stress. Easier said than done, but better to focus on the things you can change.
Last, but not least: how are you going to celebrate your 25 years anniversary?
Champagne, champagne, champagne. I’m going to celebrate at a Friday bar with my colleagues and that’s it. It’s just another quarter of a century, no biggie ;-)