Per Pedersen — Chairman of Global Creative Council, GREY Worldwide

Per Pedersen talks to TheNextGag about why it was an honor sitting in a jury room alongside Sir John Hegarty, what he thinks of the big winners of Cannes Lions 2016 and the complete process of developing a great award-worthy campaign.

Per Pedersen is the Chairman of Global Creative Council of GREY Worldwide in the USA.

24 years with Grey. Previously Co-founder of Uncle Grey in Denmark and CCO of Grey Germany. Per is the most awarded creative in the Grey network with 300+ awards — including 43 Cannes Lions.

He was ranked the no. 1 creative person in Denmark after winning several Lions for the local chain of supermarkets Fakta before assuming the job as CCO in Grey Germany.

In New York he assumed Global creative leadership on Febreze as Global ECD 2010–2014. Implementing the “Breathe Happy — blindfold” campaign in more than 30 markets around the world. This campaign has won 4 Lions and 5 Effies — including one of the prestigious Black Lions for Creative Effectiveness.

Alongside the job on Febreze he has won major international pitches for both P&G (FIFA World-Cup) and GSK (Tums/Eno globally). He has successfully overseen the push for more Lions at Grey New York since 2011 resulting in winning Regional Agency Network of the Year North America this year in Cannes.

Since January 2014 he assumed a global network position as Deputy Worldwide Chief Creative Officer with focus on Cannes Lions, PR, New Biz and strengthening the creative culture and quality of work in the entire Grey network.

Per has been a Cannes Lions Film jury member and have judged other international award shows including Eurobest and London International Award.


PER PETERSEN: You know, this is the luxury jury. I mean, it’s ten people. It’s John Hegarty. These are high-rated people, right. So, the discussions are quality discussions. We spend time on the right things. We question the right thing. The politics are not really there …

Compared to juries, this was the easiest, so to speak. But also the most enriching. Because when you are in a room with the most intelligent people, you learn actually something. So, that was a privilege.

Especially, I have to say — you saw Hegarty — he is alive, he is funny. And he’s got such a rich experience on our industry. He took the journey from Levi’s commercials to this world, where he is judging flying seagulls that shit. And he is keeping up with what is good, what is bad. And I have to applaud that. That is an accomplishment, I think.


PP: That moved me ?

Do you mean because it was good or because it was emotionally engaging ?


PP: Let me think. It was not a good year for being moved somehow. 
I do actually think that the “Phelps” for Under Armour thing feels moving, touching. Although it is very produced, of course. But, you can feel the pain and that feels emotionally engaging.

I liked the work for the UN “The Unfairy Tales” with the Syrian refugees. Of course, who cannot be moved by that ? And it is such a beautiful piece.

There was a little bit of a tendency that we moved away from the sad piano, as I call it. The sad piano was a very big part of the last couple of years. And I think we’ve come to a point where we want to see something different. We want to see something that feels — I wouldn’t say funny, because that is the wrong word, and I should probably use something more clever — that you can actually engage with for a longer time.

And #OptOutside is a good example. It is more bold and courageous than it is emotionally engaging. It is not important by talking to your feelings. It is important by doing something that will make your life better, with people going outside instead of staying all the time inside. It doesn’t feel like a brand that is trying to associate itself with some sort of NGO.

This was the only criticism that I had with “McWhopper”. “#OptOutside” started a movement that they started, they are behind it, it’s theirs. That’s really the CEO that is in the ads. Where does “McWhopper” comes from ? What originated that ? I think we all understand this story that there is a World Peace Day thing, they sent out that peace initiative — whatever that was. But I don’t know where it really comes from. I fully know that “#OptOutside” comes from the company. That is the company doing, that is the CEO that is talking. Whereas the other thing … I love it. I love “McWhopper”, but I have this feeling that it would not exist unless our industry sort of hyped it so much. It is so much an agency thing.


PP: Yeah, every day, all the time. This is what we are doing.

The way we work is — there are no secrets, by the way — we don’t have a set list of things that we want to achieve with the creative. What we want to do is constantly have that debate. We constantly want to define what is good. The only thing that is a constant for us is the “Famously Effective” pledge that we have made. We don’t want campaigns just to be famous. We don’t want campaigns just to be effective. We strongly believe that campaigns that somehow resonate in the world will be effective. And by doing that, we are looking for ideas that resonate. It is almost a cliché to say, but which becomes part of pop-culture or plays with pop-culture, or somehow gets in with the real world. That’s a constant.

But how do we do that ? I think it is going to be a constantly changing thing. “Superbowl Babies” is a good example of one way of doing it, that really works. You have a couple of ingredients, you have what we call a freak factor — the 9 months after every Superbowl there is a peak of babies being born in the cities that won the Superbowl. Having that almost opens the door to some media. The other part that you have is the actual location — the 50th anniversary of the Superbowl — which again is media-worthy. And then we top that, collaborating with Seal and taking a song that somehow resonates with both young and old, and that everybody knows. It is not a hit song from now, it is a hit song from then, but everybody knows it. These are put together in a music video. It checks a lot of boxes.

But an other way of doing it, of course, is “The Swedish Number”. “The Swedish Number” does not have that. There are no celebrities. You are calling Swedish people. We did have the Swedish Prime Minister, but because he wanted to pick up the phone. He called us to ask to be part of this. When we saw the idea, we had the intuition that this could be really big in pop culture. Like really big. Because it does not come with celebrities, it does not come with an occasion that is already famous. There was this little occasion that Sweden is celebrating the 200th anniversary of free speech. And in a world of more and more censorship, it is something we can use. But I think what really works in that, is that it is almost too tempting for journalists or people to take their phone. See it, try it. The number of live TV shows, journalists, media personalities and bloggers that actually recorded themselves talking to somebody in Sweden is unbelievable. Every single news story, every single news show, every single paper and every single big media in the world tried it.

Again, that’s a story. A different way that I would not be able to predict before we had the idea. But when I look through the lens of “Famously Effective”, it checks the box. It is doing it in a new way, compared to “Superbowl Babies”, who is doing it in the right way, so to speak. The Swedish Number is doing it in a very unusual way. An unpredictable way. Just like last year’s “The Berlin Wall of Sound”. I don’t even know what it is. And sometimes, stuff that you don’t even know what they are become famous, because people are just fascinated by them. And that’s it.

Per Pedersen

GREY Worldwide

Chairman of Global Creative Council

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