Why ad agencies should prioritise fame over purpose

As Forsman & Bodenfors sets up a new in-house team dedicated to the dark art of digital distribution, we discuss why ‘fame’ is returning to adland’s lexicon

Purpose is out and fame is in – or so it seems, based on the gradually evolving language of press releases and ad agency ‘about’ pages. After a long stretch focused on the ways brands can effect social change, the creative industry feels like it’s swinging back towards more old-fashioned adland values of grabbing attention and creating entertainment. That’s right, brands want to be famous again.

It’s something that Forsman & Bodenfors has some experience with. Its 2013 ad Epic Split, created for Volvo Trucks and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, was enormously popular with both consumers and the creative industry. According to the agency, it became the most shared video in the world the day after release, and received 10 million hits on YouTube within 48 hours. Ten years later, that kind of fame is hard to come by.

“Nothing really goes viral on its own anymore,” says Nikolai Skotland Wichmann, who heads up the agency’s new F&B Fame division, which is dedicated to amplifying engagement and reach of ideas via digital distribution. “It’s a difficult word to use in the 2020s. It’s not like clients don’t want the same thing, they still want the holy grail, and the unicorn is still a creative idea where you don’t have to spend one cent of your advertising dollar behind it. Who wouldn’t want that?”