Taking the goggles off: Joakim Borgström's plans to make BBH Singapore the best agency in the world

BBH APAC's Joakim (Jab) Borgström on doing real work and inspiring confidence

A little under six months into his role as Asia Pacific executive creative director of BBH, Joakim (Jab) Borgström already has a high profile account win and a number of hires at the agency under his belt, so it’s no wonder he’s feeling confident.

It’s a confidence that he hopes the agency absorbs because Borgström has ambitions to take the the creative agency's Singapore-based Asia Pacific hub to the global stage. And he plans to do this with a reputation for real work, not for awards.

Speaking to The Drum, Borgström said the vision for the agency can be best described with the word ‘can’.

“It’s simple: can. I want to make people believe that they can. That they can create the best work in the world. We have the talents, briefs, clients, projects. There isn’t an excuse to not do work that doesn’t transcend the Red Dot. We need to do the undoable so that we are not only the best office in town, but in the world - who did that? I want people lining up outside the office to come and work here,” he said.

The agency is already attracting global talent into the Singapore office as BBH recently announced new hires to its Black Sheep Studios team, headed by new managing partner Tim Lindley, who was previously head of owned media and communications for Asia at Red Bull.

The agency has also snared a significant lead account win in Singapore telco Singtel, which previously had Ogilvy & Mather on the roster.

With some of the ingredients in place, Borgström’s role is to create the culture of confidence to take it “to 11”.

“We have the group of people to come together and do the impossible here. It’s now about starting a new era here because I know we can, we just need to believe it. I need to make people believe it,” he said.

Part of that will be creating the right environment in the office by bringing in local artists and creatives to collaborate, or to add work into the space. The BBH office in Singapore already hosts a large sculpture by Singapore resident and founder of Kult Steve Lawler.

While this may sound like the ambitions of many a creative in the US or Europe, in many parts of Asia, stories of scam work and lower levels of award wins (aside from New Zealand where agencies such as Colenso BBDO found global acclaim throughout 2016) have dampened spirits somewhat.

Installing confidence is one, perhaps much needed, part of the plan but he’s also got another trick up his sleeve: doing real work.

“Let’s start doing real work with real briefs. Let’s do less scam, less fake refugee ads, less detergent print ads and minimalist beer ads. We should stop worrying about what the jury thinks and wonder what our family or neighbour would like instead. We are letting it become an award reality but there’s a real world out there, we need to take the goggles off and do real work.

"It is a little provocative but that is why the region has been famous in the past, with all types of ads that have been recognised outside the country but we can do real work, we have seen that more and more, so the trend is already turning hopefully,” he said.

The only challenge to achieving these things, according to Borgström, is himself being unable to build the 'can' attitude that he needs.

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Charlotte McEleny

Charlotte McEleny is The Drum's Asia Editor, charged with finding all the interesting industry news and insights from the Asia Pacific region. During her year in Asia, she's covered topics as wide ranging as industry overwork to artificial intelligence, and interviewed top CMOs such as Alibaba's Chris Tung, and world famous creatives such as Rankin.

Based in Singapore, she travels the region regularly, attending and presenting at many top events, such as Spikes, Ad Week Asia and Innovfest.

Prior to her role as Asia Editor, she spent 10 years working across the London marketing trade magazines, even picking up an award for Best Digital Team at the PPA Digital Awards during her spell as digital editor at Marketing.

All by Charlotte