Company: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Staff worldwide: 1,000
Offices around the world: 7
For many people in advertising, pitching to a client in a sauna on a tiny autonomous Finnish island – naked, drinking vodka and eating pizza – might be the pinnacle of their career. Not so for Pelle Sjoenell, the worldwide chief creative officer at Bartle Bogle Hegarty (bbh), a global creative agency originally founded in London, which has made a name for itself bolstering the fortunes of megabrands such as Johnnie Walker, Absolut and Levi’s.
Indeed, 44-year-old Sjoenell has risen a long way since that unusual – and successful – in-the-buff pitch for new business to a group of ferry-liner executives. Originally from Sweden, he moved to Minneapolis to work for ad agency Fallon before landing at bbh, first in its New York shop before venturing out to Los Angeles to set up the West Coast office in 2010.
Sjoenell acts as a link between bbh’s network of offices – which spans London, New York, LA, Stockholm, Singapore, Shanghai and Mumbai – and its individual chief creative officers. “I come up with ideas for communication or action for brands to help them sell products,” he says, which also involves navigating the intersection between advertising, entertainment and technology.
Despite having a global leadership role at bbh, Sjoenell is reluctant to embrace hierarchy – something he says is part of the Swedish dna. So winnowing down his most valued advisers to just a few people for this feature was fraught, as it meant leaving out some “black sheep” (a nickname for bbh staff inspired by an early Levi’s advert that brought it worldwide attention). “[bbh co-founder] Sir Nigel Bogle used to say, ‘None of us is as good as all of us,’” says Sjoenell. “As a Swede that makes perfect sense.”
Sjoenell insists that all of the agency’s global creatives, executives and staffers could be considered part of his cabinet. Yet he concedes that in bbh’s hectic world it’s his core team that helps marshal the LA office, makes sure he doesn’t miss a flight, acts as a sounding board for ideas – and yes, if needed, ensures he’s ready for another sauna pitch.