Hello Melanie - a colleague from our International Agency Network

Melanie Haffner from the Austrian ad agency SPS MARKETING visited us for a week. The agency is part of the E3 network – an international network of strategic, branding and communication agencies. In this blogpost she speaks about interesting insights surrounding the differences between the agencies and communication trends in Austria. 

How come you’re visiting us?

This is really something I’ve personally wanted to do for some time – due to my own curiosity and interest in other cultures. When browsing our E3 member list for a potential agency back then, I was certainly tempted by slightly more exotic destinations, for example Singapore, or opting for the convenience of an English-native agency, but I pretty soon decided on Cordovan as my first choice. I had been to Sweden before but only as a tourist and the idea of digging deeper appealed to me.

Tell us about your job at SPS MARKETING.

My official job title says “Account Executive”, which means I manage a number of our clients and their projects with us, from briefing to rollout. In practice, many responsibilities often overlap with those of colleagues throughout the entire agency. I really appreciate this diversity, including plenty of strategic and conceptual work but also sometimes hands-on tasks like scouting models, overseeing voice recordings and shootings or helping with last-minute fair booth preparations. I’ve been with SPS MARKETING since May 2014; prior to that I worked part-time in marketing, too – but on the “other” side – next to studying business and economic sciences with a specialisation in marketing and international management at Johannes Kepler Universität.

The trending topics at the moment are employer branding and digital projects of all kinds.

What's happening on the Austrian market? Do you see any particular communication trends right now?

Speaking for our agency, the trending topics at the moment are employer branding and digital projects of all kinds, including apps, content marketing, VR or AR next to websites, of course. Strategic concepts that respond to and help position our clients in changing company environments are also at the top of our to-do list right now.

Furthermore, there are steadily more and more requests for video projects, for instance product brand or internal strategy videos that help explain complex arguments. I suppose that’s not just specific for Austria, though, you’re probably seeing similar trends. What may be typical of our Austrian clients – merely because we are a rather small country – is that they’re often going international at an early point in their company history.

What are your hopes for your visit at Cordovan?

Coming from another agency – plus another country– I’m excited to get insights into how you do things around here and which trends or developments are currently on your minds. The longer I’ve been with my own agency and gotten used to the way we handle things, I increasingly wonder how other agencies do it. I’m curious to discover all the major and minor differences – may that concern the organisational structure, interaction among the team, workflows and creative processes, presentation forms etc. I’m also interested in experiencing the Swedish culture. In general, I’m open for any kinds of discovery or inspiration. 

I’ve been shown some of the extensive briefs you receive from your clients, and I must say I’d be happy if all clients put so much effort into that.

How does the work at Cordovan differ from how you work at SPS MARKETING?

It was actually the similarities between us that first caught my eye, for instance regarding company size or client focus. However, one difference I noticed straight away when looking at your website earlier was that your job profiles are a lot more distinct, more specialised.

As you’re probably aware, Sweden and other Scandinavian countries are often perceived as positive role models in terms of business culture and work-life balance. So far, my first impression is that hierarchies and gender differences really are quite non-existent around here. Your colleagues stay home with ill children readily – no matter if they’re a mum or a dad. You also seem to be very eager to include everyone in information streams and decisions.

By the way, I’ve been shown some of the extensive briefs you receive from your clients, and I must say I’d be happy if all clients put so much effort into that. This would really help everyone to do a more efficient job. Furthermore, there are a number of little extras that you do in order to strengthen the team spirit: for instance, having breakfast together every morning or a wine lottery every Friday afternoon. It’s also a nice idea to have your very own “Mood Manager”. I really love what Karin has made of your reception and lounge/kitchen areas.

What do you think of Sweden?

As I said, this isn’t my first visit to Sweden, but I really enjoy the everyday life experience this time. I’ve felt very welcome from day one; I suppose our cultures don’t differ too much after all. I must confess I came somewhat prepared – having read some blogs about “lagom” and “typical Swedish things” – and I have in fact actually recognised some of those presumptions already. However, a week is certainly too short to jump to any conclusions about the Swedish culture in general. Gothenburg has really grown on me in no time – despite the cold. It’s a lovely city, with the river and compact city centre, where I’ve done lots of strolling around already. I also enjoyed the impressive landscape out in the skärgård, which you can reach by tram – very practical. I’ve also had a small taste of your wide-ranging restaurant scene. I am, however, particularly focused on making my way through the Swedish cuisine while I’m here.