Creative Lives Podcast — Maksimilian Kallhed on creating The Pop Up Agency and solving briefs in 48 hours
This week’s podcast guest is Maksimilian Kallhed, who was still studying at Hyper Island Stockholm when he co-founded The Pop Up Agency with five fellow students. We hear how Max and the team got their concept off the ground and how the company has grown since then.
Co-founder and Director, The Pop Up Agency
London and Paris
Interactive Art Direction, Hyper Island Stockholm (graduated 2012)
Maksimilian and the other co-founders of The Pop Up Agency were still students at Hyper Island in Stockholm when they began to develop their concept for a creative consultancy. The 48-hour process for which the Pop Up Agency is now known, came about purely due to time constraints – “We only had the weekends off”, Maksimilian tells us – but the format worked so well that the agency adopted it as part of their identity and creative strategy.
It was a bold approach. “We were fortunate to have a format that gained fans or enemies,” says Maksimilian. “A lot of people didn’t like what we were doing in the beginning, but at least we got their attention.”
“The 48-hour format was strong enough to travel on its own.”
In their first year as fledgeling creative consultants, The Pop Up Agency launched with a global tour, setting out to provide creative direction and strategy to fifteen different clients, in fifteen different countries, within fifteen weeks.
“The 48-hour format was strong enough to travel on its own,” Maksimilian tells us. During their fifteen-week tour, the agency charged only for travel, accommodation and food costs, but the question of fees became more complicated when they came to decide on their business model. “One of the challenges that we faced early on was: How do we charge for creativity? How do we charge hard money for something we can’t predict?” After testing various different fee models, The Pop Up Agency settled on selling its services as a process, not a product.
Creative Experiment by The Pop Up Agency
Today, the Pop Up Agency is directed by Maksimilian and fellow co-founder Abraham Abbi Asefaw – “We went from six co-founders to two co-founders,” Maksimilian says – and it has popped up in over 55 countries to provide creative consultancy and direction for a diverse range of world-renowned brands, including Coca-Cola, Facebook, Spotify, Adidas and YSL.
"We as creatives are expected to work for low fees or no fees, but your knowledge is valuable.”
Although The Pop Up Agency now collaborates with high-flying brands, Maksimilian advises starting small if you are planning a similar venture: “Don’t stare yourself blind at the big brands, look at companies that will give you flexibility and will also see your value, because you do have value. […] We as creatives are expected to work for low fees or no fees, but your knowledge is valuable.”
Finally, Maksimilian offers some crucial and resounding advice for emerging creatives who are entering the world of work; “Understand your value, don’t be afraid of asking and do projects that stimulate your creativity.”
Maksimilian and Abraham of The Pop Up Agency