2 Minutes With ... Pelle Sjoenell, Worldwide CCO of BBH

His creative journey from Sweden to NYC to L.A.

Photo illustration: Ashley Epping

Pelle Sjoenell studied art direction and communication at Sweden's Berghs School of Communication. After stints at several agencies in his home country, he joined Fallon Minneapolis in 2006, and a year later joined BBH, where he's been ever since. 

After three years at BBH New York, he moved to the West Coast to launch BBH Los Angeles, where he has explored the intersection of advertising, entertainment and technology. ​He took the role of worldwide chief creative officer—the prestigious position previously held by Sir John Hegarty—in 2016.

He is also a passionate advocate for gender equality, serving on the advisory council for The Women in Public Service Project and working with the Creative Alliance to address gender equality and justice around the world. 

We spent two minutes with Sjoenell to learn more about his background, his inspirations, and recent and classic work he's admired. 

Pelle, tell us... 

The town where you were born.

A tiny mining town in the very north of Sweden called Gällivare. It's north of the Arctic Circle, north of Iceland, basically north of the Wall. You don't have to go much further north to start going south. 

What you wanted to be when you grew up.

This. 

How you discovered you were creative.

Early on. The first sign was developing a clear authority problem. I believe the feeling of dissatisfaction with the world, its rules and set structures creates a want to improve it in some of us. And when that feeling turns into ideas and then action, we call it creativity. And those who believe they can actually change and better things are called creative people. 

A person you idolized creatively growing up.

Turbo in Breakdance the Movie. And OK, Sir John Hegarty.

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

Discovering Los Angeles through and with my wife and partner in crime Pauline, whom I started dating while at Berghs School of Communication. I got to see the entertainment industry when I just started in advertising, and I realized the two industries would merge one day, and I wanted to be there, in L.A., when it happened. They did, and I am. 

The first concert you saw. 

First concert, Depeche Mode. Black Celebration Tour, Stockholm, April 26, 1986. Magic. 

Your favorite artist.

The Beastie Boys. The music and the aesthetics.

Your favorite hero or heroine in fiction.

Toshiro Mifune as the ronin (wondering masterless Samurai) Kikuchiyo (菊千代) in Seven Samurai.

The best book you've read lately.

Factfulness by Hans Rosling.

Your favorite movie.

Grease has always been one. Not the sequel, though. And lately, Thunder Road. Brilliant. 

Your favorite Instagram follow.

Friends and family.

Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on, and why.

"Dig Out Your Soul in the Streets." Oasis and NYC. With my amazing brother Calle, my creative partner at the time at BBH New York. Good times. It won us a Cannes Titanium Lion. 

Your favorite creative project from the past year, and why.

Nike Go BKK, out of our brilliant BBH Singapore office. Bangkok was known for being tricky to run in, and we gamified the experience by adding digital tokens in and around running routes around the city. What I love about it is it show what can be achieved when online meets offline, and how technology can enhance reality. It was also a smart way to drive to sales and special events—by gathering tokens, people could get better deals on the new running shoe. It also won a Gold Clio in Sports this year—high praise indeed!

Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago.

I actually did grow up on BBH London's Levi's campaign. It changed the course of my life. Proof of how much I loved it is partly what I do today, but also that I actually did have my Levi's 501s in the fridge—in cold Sweden, mind you—and thought I was so rad. Which I was, to be honest. At least I thought so.

Someone else's creative project that you've been envious of lately.

I love "My Life as a NPC" from Ubisoft for Assassin's Creed Odyssey.

Your main strength as a creative person.

Fearless positivity.

Your weakness or blind spot.

Same.

One thing that always makes you happy.

Great ideas.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Lack thereof.

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

Entertainment.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and the founding editor of Muse by Clio.

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