Growing up in Sweden, both Samuel Akesson and Tomas Mankovsky knew that they wanted their future jobs to involve something creative, although it wasn’t always advertising that they had in mind. “As a kid I wanted to become an inventor,” says Mankovsky, who was born in Gdansk in Poland before moving to Stockholm at the age of one. “Then I got older and realised it’s just a dream occupation. At 17 I read an article about a Swedish ad man, Jacob Nelson, in a teenage magazine called Chili. That article really opened my eyes to advertising, I didn’t know one could have a job like that. It was perfect for me.”
Akesson came to advertising via graphic design. “I guess pretty early on I thought that I wanted to be a graphic designer,” he says. “It seemed to suit me, having grown up always drawing, doing the posters for the school dance and that kind of stuff. When I got into art college and started doing graphic design properly, I felt that it was sort of slow and detailed. And I’m quite fast and not always so good with details so it didn’t seem right for me. Also in advertising, you can have bigger ideas – thoughts that start with, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if…’. And those excite me more than, ‘Maybe the space between the F and the H needs to be bigger…’.”
The two first met briefly while studying at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm, but really got to know each other when Mankovsky moved to London to take up a placement at Fallon in 2004. Akesson was already in the city, working initially at MADE at Leo Burnett and then at Scholz & Friends, and the two eventually came together as a creative team when Akesson joined Fallon in 2005, after Mankovsky was offered full-time employment there. Since then they have produced a number of campaigns for the agency, including ads for Orange and bbc radio 1. Most recently they created an epic Sony Walkman spot, which saw 128 musicians assembled to play a composition by Peter Raeburn. Unusually, each musician played just one note, meaning that the piece required 32 guitars and 32 drums, along with a multitude of other instruments.
While the finished film for the Sony Walkman campaign, directed by Nick Gordon, is a delight to watch, it is perhaps its interactive qualities that really make it stand out. Alongside the film is a website, where viewers are encouraged to upload films of themselves playing the tune, and these films will later be mixed together by other users who fancy themselves as editors/producers, rather than performers. This diversity of media, and the chance to offer viewers entertainment and content instead of simply advertising messages, particularly appeals to Akesson and Mankovsky. “Tomas and I like it when an ad manages to have a value beyond simply answering the brief,” explains Akesson. “When it can also be interesting for the sake of being interesting. Or look good, because it’s nice when things look good. Simply put, when ads manage to be a little bit more than ‘just an ad’.”
Feeding their work at Fallon are the duo’s numerous personal projects, which include working on a screenplay project (Akesson) and animated films (Mankovsky). The line between work and play is far from fixed, however. “It’s not as simple as saying these are the things I do in my spare time, and these are the things I do at work,” says Akesson. “But that goes both ways. It all starts with having a thought anyway. And one thought leads to another and so on, and sometimes that ends up being an ad and sometimes it ends up being a day in the park with some friends.”
Mankovsky is more devoted to these personal projects, putting aside one day a week solely to work on them. Some even appear like the work of the inventor that he once longed to be. “I’ve previously made a short film, Little Big Love, and that was a fun experience so I’m currently working on my next short,” he says. “On my Mondays [out of the Fallon office] I do a lot of different stuff that’s not classed as traditional advertising. I do silly posters, I’m trying to launch a range of bathroom tiles with Tetris shapes, and I’ve just applied for my first patent. Some of my own projects can occasionally turn into a Fallon project, which is always fun.”
Akesson and Mankovsky’s eclectic and creative attitude towards advertising seems entirely befitting the steadily emerging trends within the industry, which require creatives to be flexible and engage more personally with their audiences, rather than simply trying to tell them what to do, or buy. It therefore seems extremely likely that we will continue to be entertained and enthralled by their work. “In the future it would be fun to do more stuff that’s not traditional advertising,” says Mankovsky. “But I also think that advertising is changing and will look different in the future. So my ‘own stuff’ can become tomorrow’s advertising. That sounds cheesy, but I hope you know what I mean. A film, a photo project or even a silly invention can be sponsored by a client and sometimes they can benefit more from something like that than from doing a 60 second ad on television.”