Carsten Fillinger came to digital advertising 15 years ago by mere chance when he was freelancing to pay for equipment for his music career. He worked for German agencies Scholz & Volkmer and Razorfish before joining Scholz & Friends in 2010 as part of the team that would lead their digital makeover. Now as ECD, he says: “I would not consider myself to be a real techie. I’m just a creative guy with a geek soul.”
Image: Carsten Fillinger, Creative Director and Head of Digital at Scholz & Friends, Berlin and ECD of Scholz & Friends Group.
How do you currently handle digital at Scholz & Friends?
Like all big agencies we hire talent from digital agencies to bring in their expertise. But we also seek new traditional copywriters and art directors that already think out of the old analogue/digital box. Some things work well, others are still to be developed. I think it is a good thing to be able to try, learn and retry. It’s my ideal of an agile, creative agency.
How do you think traditional and digital get along?
Depends on what generation they are. If you talk about the established generation of both: They come from different pop cultural backgrounds, have different workflows and languages. Sometimes they have different views of what an ‘idea’ is.
I never believed in the theory that putting all disciplines together in a room automatically leads to some magic amalgamation, this is why we kept both a physical ‘advertising’ and ‘digital’ unit. But we invented processes that bring ideas together from the very beginning. It’s a guided collaboration under the same roof. However, everything is changing again right now. Young creatives don’t separate so strongly between disciplines. They more often think in ideas, not channels. Probably time will make most of our integration efforts obsolete soon.
What are the essential things that traditional agencies should be doing to embrace digital?
Every executive should get digital in his private life first. It makes thing easier to understand. Teach your employees respect for other creativity cultures. Be ready to make mistakes.
Digital is not about technology but about a different approach to marketing, so be aware that it might shake the whole building. You will not get ready for the future just by firing out some chic digital award cases. You need time.
What changes did you make at Scholz & Friends since joining the agency?
First of all we asked ourselves: What kind of creative people do we need? What do we want to be able to do? And soon learned that we are most efficient with collaborative and social thinking minds. To me this is more important than a wide range of ‘solo stars’ or specialists.
We have a rather basic programming unit and do not try to keep everything in-house. Instead, we set up a network of innovative hotshops and freelancers to work with. I think the development part should become similar to what film production has been to agencies: A constant source of inspiration from externals you work with.
What do you think are examples of Scholz & Friends’ greatest digital and integrated achievements?
Our clients and the audience should judge that. I think we did really good with our integrated campaigns for Mercedes-Benz Transporters, “Macher” and “Meister vs. Meister”, the work for which went far beyond just the digital team.
I also love an idea we developed for our new building in Berlin: "Me & Friends", which is a huge digital billboard that changes the name of the agency to the name of the employee that enters. “Scholz & Friends” for example becomes “Miller & Friends”. I am proud that since 2011 we are also in the top ten rankings of digital creativity in Germany.
Name some of the best digital work you’ve seen this year.
I liked Heimat’s “Faces Of The Marathon” for getting really close to people in realtime. I think it is a very intense and emotional experience and completely on product. And Ogilvy’s “Pinball Park” for Ford really made me laugh. I liked the playful approach to a real insight. There is a ton more out there - I find good work every week.
Cannes is at the top of every agency’s events list. What are some of the other festivals that are worth attending?
I’m not that much of a festival guy, indie rock events excluded. But for digital creatives, OFFF in Barcelona, PICNIC in Amsterdam and SXSW in Austin surely are some of the highlights.
How have interactive and online platforms changed the way ad agencies work?
At Scholz we work in a Google cloud. Teams can open a document and work in it simultaneously. It is super cool and a timesaver. There is also a chat system for quick chats or questions, that has finally ended those endless email threads.
We have access to a constant stream of inspiration in our timelines and the web. I think that makes things more fun for a creative.
Who or what do you think we should look out for in advertising?
More real-time media and campaigns. We are not yet set up for working in a real-time environment where you can interact with your customers within minutes, react to something in the news or take an internet meme and make it work for you. I think both agencies and clients will have to work on agile and flexible structures to make that possible. But I think it will become a really awesome time.
Digital relates to traditional advertising like theatre playing does to movie making: you face the audience at any time.
Image: "Meister vs Meister" by Scholz & Friends. An award winning multi-platform campaign that revived the passion for football amongst working craftsmen by challenging four groups of them to a game of football against an all-star team of former world and European champions on a level playing field.
Video: "Me & Friends".