It’s still hard to believe how many things have changed since the first hint of The Pop Up Agency came to our minds eight months ago. A beautiful Swedish summer afternoon in Stockholm, warm but nice, and the sun was still out. I was getting ready to play football with some mates from my advertising school, Hyper Island, and my phone rang — it was Abraham.
“Hey, Alejandro, I wanted to talk to you about kind of an idea I have. I’d like you to join a team with me and others at Hyper and do this project together.”
On the other end of the phone, he planted the seed for what would grow into a nomad agency — a multidisciplinary advertising studio without a fixed location, that could pop up in different cities and allow us to work with clients for 48-hour-long projects. At the time, I didn’t know that much about Abraham; we had met each other only five days before that call, but I had a feeling I should say “yes.”
Three months later, Abraham Asefaw, Julia Schierbeck, Maksimilian Kallhed, Zlatko Corluka (all from Sweden), Wout Arets (from Holland) and me (from Spain) would officially launch The Pop Up Agency. And five months later, we would start what we call The Pop Up Tour: a fifteen-week tour that would take us to fifteen different countries to meet fifteen clients, each of whom would present us with a different challenge.
The Pop Up Agency develops concepts and strategies for startups and other agencies. We don’t focus on production; we specialize in ideas. We can function as a creative team within an agency, or act as consultants for smaller companies. But everything gets done really fast; in only two days.
In the nine months that The Pop Up Agency has been around, we have delivered communication plans, ad campaigns, brand strategies, and user experience upgrades. (At one point, we built a 3D cardboard mockup of an entire building.) That’s what keeps it exciting: the variety of challenges.
What started out as a vague concept is now a live project; the fifth week of the tour is already behind us. We have been in Helsinki, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin and now, London. We’ve been dragging our luggage around from one place to another, sleeping in hotels and apartments, bouncing from nice suites to air beds. We were introduced to a variety of cities and organizations — large and small — and have gotten to know the cultures and philosophies of the people we worked with. During the four days we stay at each location, we are able to gain lots of insight that we can apply to our own lives and professional process.
But not all the excitement comes from outside. The major challenge comes from within: to maintain harmony among ourselves. We want to remain a close-knit team while giving each other room to breathe and time away from the intense group dynamics.
Traveling together for fifteen weeks straight with only 48 hours to resolve each brief doesn’t give us much time for team building, but we can’t afford to forget it. We reflect on each project after we’ve finished; we give each other feedback and discuss the problems faced. We’ve built (and are still building) a culture where we can talk about everything and there is no fear of sharing one’s thoughts. The better the members of the group know one another, the better we will perform as a unit.
The near future
On Tuesday, we will fly to our next destination, Singapore. It’s our first city outside Europe. We don’t know yet what kind of brief will we receive there, but a new continent and city poses new challenges: an unfamiliar culture, a language that none of us speaks and, probably, jetlag.
After Singapore, it’s still not clear where we’ll pop up next. We hope to visit at least two more cities in Asia and then go to the U.S.A. But this is still an open journey. That’s what makes it so difficult and exciting.