Traktor is an enigma. The five directors use only their first names and won't even be identified in photos. Their work, they counter, speaks for them.
Juggling assignments from Coca-Cola, Levi's, Iomega and TiVo, the Los Angeles-based team has been so busy, its members can rarely get together in the same room. It's a more serious problem than for most commercial directors, considering the deep-seated philosophy of solidarity championed by the six Swedes and one Norwegian who comprise Traktor.
When storyboards arrive, Mats, Patrik, Pontus, Sam and Ulf (the five directors) and Richard and Ole (the two producers) view them together. The two directors who are most interested and available pursue the project, but credit goes to Traktor as a whole. "There are conflicts," says Ulf, "but we solve them." The communal spirit is good for business, says Ole, executive producer for the group, which is repped by Partizan. "We're more accessible."
Traktor's nontraditional methods accompany a quirky style, demonstrated in the 1998 Miller Lite "Dick" campaign out of Fallon, featuring '70s wardrobes and bizarre characters, such as an evil beaver and an amorous robot. This year, their darkly humorous "Jukka Bros" spots for MTV won many creative awards, as did a Cnet campaign they directed for Leagas Delaney, San Francisco. Yet Traktor does deviate from its offbeat style when needed, producing beautiful film for Volvo and a down-to-earth treatment for Nordstrom.
Traktor's genius, says Mike Mazza, group creative director at Publicis & Hal Riney, is partly due to their Scandinavian roots. "They reflect our culture back on us as seen through their eyes. They're very shy," says Mazza, who recently tapped the group for Iomega ads featuring men dressed as meteors and half-eaten fish. But when it comes to business, "They're extremely buttoned-up," he adds. "Everything is thought out."
Riotous performances from nonactors, witnessed in the Iomega ads, for instance, are a Traktor specialty. They don't give actors any direction until the cameras roll. Ole, spokesman for the group, says, "It's fun to keep it a little vague."