How Vice tailors its agency work in Scandinavia

Building a successful media company around the world requires an understanding of local nuances, and that’s no different for Vice and its in-house agency Virtue in Scandinavia.

As head of strategy at Virtue Scandinavia, Vicky Chen overseas hubs in Copenhagen, Denmark, one of Virtue’s largest, with about 100 employees and another 30 in Vice Media; and smaller Virtue hubs in Sweden and Norway. Virtue is also planning to open in Finland.

Virtue Scandinavia typically works with 10 to 15 clients at a time, typically in yearlong partnerships. Roughly 70 percent of the clients are global, such as Coca-Cola and Danone, while 30 percent are Scandinavian, like dairy brand Arla Essens. Roughly 80 percent of the work Virtue Scandinavia produces for brands doesn’t appear on Vice Media’s properties, Chen said. Vice started out focusing on production and creative ideas in Copenhagen, but is expanding to strategy and insights by growing the number of in-person qualitative research interviews, which the company uses to inform its branded content.

The region has its distinct character, as Virtue has learned. “In Scandinavia, you have several very distinct markets,” Chen said. “Danes only want to hear Danish; Swedes only want to hear Swedish. They have a different expectation of what ‘natural beauty’ means.” To remain relevant yet efficient, Virtue works with local influencers on campaigns that ran across multiple regions.

In Norway, Chen said clients are risk-averse, preferring to see other brands in their home market succeed with content marketing before following suit. Often, Virtue will create two or three pieces of content in a trial period before committing to a yearlong partnership with a client. This way, Virtue can build the content plan and strategy to sustain engagement throughout the year rather than in campaign spikes.

“You need five conversations with clients before they feel comfortable discussing a working relationship with you,” she said. “It’s about building trust and chemistry. We could be in conversation for three or four months before getting anything signed.”

Video seems to transcend national boundaries, though, being the most important format for commercial content that Virtue and Vice create in the region.

“For creating campaign content, video is absolutely the right medium for the message because it’s the most emotionally engaging,” said Chen, speaking at Ad Week on March 21 about creating video for brands. “When we create content for brand’s social channels, regardless of industry, gifs or looped images outperform anything else.”

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