Matias Palm-Jensen On The Spot

Matias Palm-Jensen jokes that he was chosen as Cannes Cyber Lions jury president because he’s “the oldest.” The 47-year-old creative president and founder of Stockholm, Sweden, Web shop FarFar (part of The Aegis Group) succeeds Cyber jury presidents from Brazil and the United States. The Cyber Lions are likely to gain more prominence in Cannes this year as clients shift more emphasis to nontraditional advertising. An avid skier and father of three, Palm-Jensen is the rare creative who holds both a law and business degree. Q: What’s does the role of Cyber jury president mean to you?

A: It’s the same role a coach has with a team. It’s about team-building. Creative people are often shy. My job will be to make fit for them to speak and make their voice heard. Sometimes you don’t have discussions.

Is judging interactive harder than traditional?

It is, don’t you think so? Interactive, or cyber, as it’s called in France, is bigger than any one media. It’s every media, in a way. I had 250 viral videos I had to go through the other day. Ninety-nine percent of them are traditional films, and now it’s in cyber. That will happen in outdoor, too. I was in Shanghai, and Bluetooth [was] playing with the signs. Is that cyber or outdoor? We don’t have clear lines what’s cyber and what’s not. Three years ago, we didn’t know anything about YouTube, about blogs. Even viral films were at the beginning.

Is the Web getting respect within the advertising industry as a creative medium?

I’ve always been telling the industry that they’re so wrong. They think the creative people are the people you pick from the best schools. I know if you look back to history, to be creative is to be challenging, doing things never done before, turning things upside-down, always asking questions. I think the most creative people really are in digital already. This is where everything is exploding. We’re seeing people come in from the TV and music industries. The creatives are not coming from the traditional schools.

Do you see an improvement in the interactive work of traditional agencies?

The big agencies are trying to do digital, but they fail because they do digital like they do traditional advertising. There are some big agencies like Crispin [and] others who do understand the channel. But the Ogilvys, the Greys, the Lowes are so crappy. It’s a danger for digital; that kind of money and that kind of thinking is coming in too fast.

Why do you think they don’t do it well?

The most important reason is that the best creative in interactive works in interactive agencies. The traditional agencies don’t really have digital people yet. I think this year, they will buy a lot of them. They’ve been trying to buy my people at FarFar. I see they really need to buy digital people. You really have to live this channel. It’s difficult to be standing outside and having a business model delivering things. Your biz model is your stuff, and you have to fill that staff with work. Now you tell them you have to go digital. That doesn’t work. You have to have Flash people and other kinds of skills. Now they know they have to have that, and they have to deliver digital things. But they haven’t gotten the people yet. It’s a gap we’ll see for a couple years.

Is that true everywhere?

It’s totally different in the Pacific. They’re used to handling digital. You can feel it when you see the work. It’s so much more fluid, interactive.

What’s the biggest conceptual difference between traditional and interactive work?

Traditional agencies buy 30-second spots. They buy their time. We create time. If we don’t create time, people will get off the site or banner. We have to give something back to keep people happy. People have been buying time for 50 years now. It’s not that it’s a revolution, but it’s totally different.

What kind of regional differences have you seen in interactive work?

In the U.S., the work is always well-produced. The brand is always front-and-center. It’s the same with film. In Europe, we’re more into dialogue and telling stories. It’s a culture thing more than an advertising thing. The Pacific is even better: They’re building stories with graphics. You can feel more about their tradition in the interactive advertising. And then we have tits and asses from Brazil. It’s their culture to show beautiful women. They have beautiful women, so why shouldn’t they?

What’s the worst advertising trend?

The worst trend is push advertising. You’ll see more of that. But that’s not very interesting. I don’t think anybody likes that.

And the best trend?

Thirty or 40 years ago, people would say they don’t like advertising. In Sweden, we had Ikea. Every year, Ikea would have a catalog with all [its] furniture. That catalog for people born in the ’40s and ’50s wasn’t advertising. You put that catalog in the new era we have now, and people tend to say [about] Volvo or Chrysler’s home page, “That’s not advertising, that’s information.” We had to be honest on our own home pages, on our own digital spaces, because people can see if we’re trying to advertise too much. Ninety-five percent of people who buy a new car go through five different home pages. That means advertising has a bigger role. That’s the best part. Advertising has to be honest. If you don’t give something to your audience, they won’t come back.

What’s the key to good advertising?

The brands that deliver are the ones with courage, the honest brands and even the ones with love. Mother Theresa said love, courage and honesty are what counts.