The Pop Up Agency was founded by six Hyper Island students who met in Stockholm in 2012. Beginning of this year the students decided they would do their internships around the world; 15 countries in 15 weeks, work for ‘free,’ for 48 hours on each assignment. Except that their clients (agencies, production companies, brands, and start-ups) needed to pay their flight tickets, accommodation, and food.

The team visited Amsterdam (we then wrote a Shoptalk piece about it), London, Singapore, Tokyo, New York, and Los Angeles, and worked for brands such as MediaMonks, BBH, Facebook, Coca Cola, and start-ups like AIAIAI and HowDo. Tonight Wout Arets talks at Pakhuis de Zwijger about the agency’s adventures. We called him on Skype, to ask him a few questions about this entrepreneurial concept.

How was it?
Amazing! And draining. The exciting part was that we’ve had a chance to see so many different sides of our industry. This way we really got a complete view on how the industry works. In three parts of the world, even. So not just in one culture, but in very different ones. In Shanghai, for example, we were asked to integrate social media in our concept. But in China everything is blocked and controlled by the government. On the other hand they have several brands that offer all the functionalities that we use on different platforms in one single app. So, first we received a presentation on how social media work in China.

What was the best thing you came up with?
I can’t tell you really, since everyone made us sign NDA’s. But I can tell you that we did something great for Facebook. For TBWA LA we did something that was strategically very strong. And we are also proud of what we did for BBH Singapore. Already the next day the ECD, Scott McClelland, pitched it to IKEA. Unfortunately though it had already been done in Australia – but even BBH Singapore didn’t know that.

Already the next day the ECD, Scott McClelland, pitched it to IKEA

Did any of your concepts go into production?
We don’t know yet.

Any agencies that weren’t happy with your output?
Yes. A few times we could clearly spot some disappointment. At TBWA NY, for example. But that’s only normal. After all, were still students. And we always asked for feedback. And as you can imagine, most agencies aren’t afraid in being honest and direct in their feedback.

Anything strange happened?
Yes, in NY. After TBWA we were going to travel to Goodby in San Francisco, to start on Monday. But it was cancelled Friday afternoon; an impossible time to find a new client. And we didn’t have any cash, really, to stay in New York. Eventually we could start at Droga5, also in New York. But then they cancelled Monday night. Then, all of a sudden, we had a serious accommodation problem. We moved from the super chic Roosevelt hotel in New York – paid for by TBWA – to the street! Fortunately I could sleep on a couch at Hyper Island New York. The stress is draining, but you’ve got to move on and find a new host.

And then?
On Tuesday via Twitter, we received a reaction from Overthinking, a strategic agency in New York. That’s typically New York, things move fast there. But we were very relieved.

Will this be your baby?
It already is. We are all going for it 100%. After the tour we asked ‘who’s joining?’ Everyone raised hands. Now we are all living on our last savings, so in that respect, it’s a typical start-up.

After the tour we asked ‘who’s joining?’ Everyone raised hands

But is this a viable business concept?
We think so, but that still needs to be proved. Most important difference is that we won’t work for free anymore. Our HQ will be in London, and we will also be operating from Amsterdam. This means that briefings can be done through Skype – which will bring the costs down.

I can imagine though they’ll want to meet face to face?
They can of course fly us in or visit us. How much will the six of you cost? We’re still working on the numbers, but it will be a competitive price.

What will distinguish you?
We’ll work for both agencies and clients. But the most important thing is the 48-hour pressure cooker concept. We actually came up with that concept, because at Hyper Island we started doing side projects in our weekends, so we only had 48 hours.

What’s the advantage of the 48-hour concept?
Well, the most obvious one is that we solve problems within two days. And sometimes a company just wants fresh ideas, without having to go through the process of hiring a new agency. With that we cater a faster and more dynamic world. For us it only makes sense, we grew up in a pop up world.

For us it only makes sense, we grew up in a pop up world

Any skeptics?
Yes. Underneath an article on Campaign Brief Asia some of the comments were quite sour. People derogatively called it things like ‘fast food’ and ‘one night stands.’ But McClelland, who hired us in Singapore, responded on the critique with; “Exploring new ways of working is not only a necessity for most of us facing the business challenges of modern advertising, but it can keep us interested and excited about coming into the office every day.” Fortunately there are enough people out there that understand the concept.

If you want to hear more about the adventures and plans of The Pop-up-agency, they will talk about it tonight at Pakhuis de Zwijger. You can register (for free) here.