2 Minutes With ... Agga Jónsdóttir, Creative Experience Director & CD at Pipar\TBWA

On the voice of Toyota and how to lure an audience with pathos

Agga is a creative director, creative experience director and partner at Pipar/TBWA. She holds a B.A. in graphic design from the Iceland University of the Arts and is currently pursuing an M.A. in gender studies. She has 20 years of experience in marketing, working across corporate identity, visual communications and illustration. She has served as a juror for numerous competitions in the past decade.

We spent two minutes with Agga to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations and recent work she's admired.

Agga, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Westman Island, a tiny island on the south coast of Iceland (population 4,400-ish) and I currently live in Reykjavik.

How you first realized you were creative.

I've been painting, sketching and making stuff since I can remember. I told my aunt that I was going to be a graphic designer when I was 8 years old. I had no idea what that was. Later in life I realized I was good at solving problems and thinking in new ways. So basically, being creative has always been on my agenda. 

A person you idolized creatively early on.

I have loved Andy Warhol and Bridget Riley since I was a kid. My grandfather used to look through modern art books with me when I was really young and laugh himself silly as I tried to focus on Riley's op art. Paula Scher, Paul Rand, Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh came in strong when I was a young graphic designer. But today, I am always honored and inspired to be around people who move the world with creativity. I find it everywhere. You just have to open your eyes.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

When the head of the Icelandic Art School said I was too much of a "plain Jane" to cut it and I did not get in. That was the kick I needed to motivate me toward my goals. I came back a year later with an attitude, dyed my hair black and gave him one sketchbook. I got in ... and I'm still designing 20 years later.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

Björk, she keeps pushing every boundary.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

Walking: One Step At a Time by Erling Kagge just gave me a nice sigh as I read it. Stranger Things because of the nostalgic graphics and memories. 

Your favorite fictional character.

Han Solo and Indiana Jones—I love characters that have some human flaws. 

Someone or something worth following in social media.

I'm all over the place there. Inspiration can be found in anything. I'm looking forward to seeing how A.I. is going to change our business, at least in the sketch phase, pitches and inspo.

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.

More time and new ways of thinking. More time with my family and more time on projects. It was a great challenge, but also an opportunity for us leading the agency. We managed to stay strong and started to use another part of our brains—thinking in solutions. Not only in our projects but also creating clever ways for our clients to survive and succeed. It actually activated a new part of our working process that we most definitely want to keep turned on for the future. Many customers thrived during that time, and we were able to keep everyone on board at Pipar/TBWA.

One of your favorite creative projects you’ve ever worked on, and why.

I worked for many years for an NGO in Iceland called Á allra vörum. They pick a new concept every year to collect money for. Work like that always takes you higher than "normal" ads. A couple of them stand closer to heart than others, "Eenie Meenie Miny Moe ..." for kids with terminal illness, and a campaign against depression called "Dry the Valley of Tears."

I have worked on great campaigns for KFC since 2020 focusing on showing Colonel Sanders as an Icelander. Bringing that character to life with my team has been so much fun.

A recent project you’re proud of, and why.

It was great fun to do a music video for KFC. And then the Blush campaign, "Spot the Difference"—finding creative ways to skirt social media rules selling sex toys and normalizing sexual health. I am also really proud of my colleagues Selma Þorsteinsdóttir and the Toyota team for a new ad that came out on New Year's Eve. It depicts the handover for the "voice of Toyota" with no words at all. The former voice is a singer and actor and is deeply rooted in the Icelandic community, and he recently came out to the public with Parkinsons, so it had a real emotional effect. I've never seen so much impact in comments and organic reach during my whole career in Iceland.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

John Lewis' "The Long Wait" created by adam&eveDDB, because it got me re-thinking my values. Also, "Mr. W." by Nordpul Hamburg, because that is just masterclass storytelling and left me like "wow."

Someone else’s work you admired lately.

"The Virén Chair" by TBWA Helsinki. A self-rising chair that foretells a rise in the use of recycled plastic. It was very inspiring talking to Juhana Hokkanen, creative director and head of innovation in Helsinki, about it during a short stay there in November. It's empowering to see when a simple action or a person can be the drive for something new and innovative. 

Your main strength as a creative person.

My head is always all over the place, so I can have multiple balls up in the air at the same time. I have a good eye for details and work well with people. I try not to sugarcoat things regarding design and opinions.

Your biggest weakness.

Like I said, my head is always all over the place. "Ohh look a yellow car ..."

One thing that always makes you happy.

My family. Recharging in nature. Good f***ing design.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Bad kerning and a small cap "ð" inside an all caps word or sentence.

What you'd be doing if you weren’t in advertising.

Hopefully designing some art or just being really, really bored and frustrated.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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