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The El Dorado of digital communications revealed

At a lively celebration in Stockholm, Making Waves were introduced to the North Alliance (NoA) companies, which have joined forces to take their combined capacity within communication, design and technology further. The event revealed a paradigm shift towards human-centred innovation in service design, while consolidating its strong communications network and having a lot of fun.

I left Krakow with the enthusiasm that is typical when travelling in good company, combined with the prospect of good times awaiting in Sweden. I still carry this urge for discovery: I have not seen much of Europe so far, and even though I work in a field I have a passion for, I am relatively new in Making Waves. Surrounded by novelty, I find something interesting about each and every person I talk to.

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In Stockholm, we were going to meet both our Norwegian colleagues and the rest of the NoA family members. On our way to the event at Winterviken, just south of central Stockholm, we drove past lots of greenery, flowers in full bloom, sparrows, and everywhere people lying on the lawns, satiating the need for a well-deserved suntan. A silver light lined the contours of the sea inlets, where children in arm buoys were queuing on the pier to try their best jumps. The scenery painted a classic picture of Nordic summer – the one that cannot be taken for granted and is long awaited.

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It was the first time I attended a corporate gathering and I found it interesting, to say the least, to experience the long, midsummer-like evening at Winterviken, which used to house Alfred Nobel’s dynamite factory. This evening the building filled up with NoA’s 500 family members, representing various disciplines and the seven companies forming the organization: Making Waves, Åkestam Holst, Bold, Knock, &CO, Great Works and Promenad.

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Perhaps the most striking feature was the unbelievable display of cool hairdos and cool beards I will never be able to grow myself. Or the abundance of high-quality wine, or the new acquaintances with their remarkable Scandinavian sense of (dark) humour. But of course you want to know details of the event – what is beyond the lead paragraph, the standfirst, rider, kicker, bank head(line)? I will focus on the highlights and save some time for our thinkers and makers.

NoA’s CEO Thomas Høgebøl performed the kick-off of the event. The young founder stressed the fact that we were making history. For the last 15 years, the Nordic countries have been home to a great deal of innovative communications but for some reason, there have not been any strong communication networks based here. Until now. The ambition of gathering the best communication and marketing people is fulfilled – now we will join our strategic and creative efforts by collaborating and learning from each other, one step at a time, Høgebøl explained.

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KNOCK’s Creative Director, Erik Rune, also shared valuable and inspiring stories. NoA’s strong capacity for brand design and events (or partying, if you like) calls for the importance of “creating content that promotes emotional engagement”. Among many successful campaigns driven by the award-winning brand experiences company, Rune mentioned NEST, the innovative Networked Society Forum, created to promote Ericsson in Hong Kong.

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An international player in marketing and product design, Great Works (“…the agency for now and beyond…”), represented by its co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Ted Persson, could proudly announce the feat of 100 million searches on Absolut Vodka’s award winning Drinks in motion campaign on how to mix drinks. With a few simple clicks, choosing whatever ingredients you have at hand, the website generates a selection of cocktails you can make. Click on a drink you want to try and a robot creates a pretty video showing you how to make it. 100,000,001 searches now!

The only Danish firm in the group, &CO, has successfully managed to shine bright with the “coolest campaign in the world”, featuring Christopher Walken (officially the coolest man on Earth) to promote the clothing brand Jack and Jones.

Åkestam Holst was represented by the company’s Creative Director, Andreas Ullenius. Their entrepreneurial philosophy involves seeing their clients as their colleagues. They recently received a lot of attention with their eye-catching – hair-raising, even – campaign carried out in the Stockholm underground system. When a train approaches the platform, the image of a woman reacts and her hair starts moving in the wind.

Magnus Hamberg spoke on behalf of the Promenad team. This company focuses on promotions for retail clients such as IKEA. Hamberg stressed that the retail sector is undergoing a revolution in its digital frontiers and constantly creating new trends.

Awarded the “Swedish design agency of the year 2013”, Bold was introduced by its CEO and founder Carl-Fredrik af Sandeberg who reported on their impressive growth from 2 to 23 people in only three years – and now to over 500 family members in the NoA alliance.

Making Waves’ attendees corresponded to around 50% of those present at the event, with no less than 14 nations represented, as CEO Dag Honningsvåg pointed out. Honningsvåg also emphasised that Making Waves is the only company represented at the event by a woman, referring to the speech delivered by Cathrine Movold, the company’s Experience Design Director. Her expertise in the field allowed predictions for upcoming market trends and needs: “Ultimately, our mission is to connect with the people outside using our client’s products. We need smart devices that can read users.”

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There is certainly no shortage of golden opportunities for learning and growing here. Right now, it seems that we have found the European El Dorado of digital communications in NoA. So how should a network in communication, design and technology look in 2014 and onwards? The Nordic countries, inaugurating their role as a global player with a set of diverse competencies, bound together by shared values and the spontaneous drive for innovation. NoA is the phenomenon of a paradigm shift.  And we are part of this team!

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