How The Pop Up Agency Came About...

We are known for travelling the world and solving briefs in 48 hours. Creative process is at the heart of everything we do. We are a reaction of our time. This is the story of how and why we came about...

We (the Founders of The Pop Up Agency) had just started studying at Hyper Island in Stockholm and the energy was electric. There is no better way to describe it than calling it a ‘honeymoon’. Two weeks into the program we had the urge to start a side project. What we did was to reflect on our needs and values. We wanted to work globally, shorter projects, no roles, a dynamic work environment and so on. When we boiled down our needs and values, the tailored outcome was, and still is, The Pop Up Agency.

From Idea, to Reality…

From the beginning, we’ve believed in the idea. The first client was Hoa's Tool Shop, a start-up in Stockholm. We brought with us a camera team of three people and also live-streamed the very first 48h Pop-Up session to our client. Halfway through, we realised that we had not thought things through and had too many distractions. This lesson was very valuable for us and moving forward we realised two things. A) If we were going to be a company that delivered ideas and concepts for a living and we wanted to have ‘eureka’ moments, we need a process... B) We need to get out of our heads and start testing things, i.e. prototyping...

So the whole first year was all about prototyping and experimenting with The Pop Up Agency concept. In total, we managed to work with 27 different clients across 16 countries.

The Value Proposition

Initially, The Pop Up Tour spanned 15 weeks, with 15 clients, in 15 countries which was a way for us to launch the company but also, more importantly, continue prototyping it. We decided early that the real value was the experience and the chance to prototype The Pop Up Agency.

We made it very clear what our value proposition was and what we needed in return for our services. We communicated that this was an experiment, that we would solve a brief in 48h and that the output would be an idea or concept. In return, we needed our expenses and accommodation covered. Basically, we made the threshold very low, it was easy for the client to take a chance on us. As we learned from our first 48h session, we needed to prototype everything. We didn't know if the service we provided would be a need and who it would fit.

Getting a Foot in The Door

Initially, everything was a challenge. We didn't really know where to start or who to contact — the goal was 15 countries, 15 clients, 15 weeks. Great idea, but easier said than done. The idea was to have the tour booked with a client at every stop before it started, but what happened was that we only had 5 booked and 10 empty slots. We decided quickly to go ahead with the tour, and hoped the press would pick up and that it would help us. To our surprise we received a lot of press coverage - we were mentioned in over 20 countries. However, to our disappointment, it didn't get us any clients. The reality was that as we were solving client briefs, we had to also allocate time to finding a new client for the coming week. Our strategy quickly became to focus on recommendations as we realised that one CEO knows another. Adding to that, another key factor was social media. We frequently shared and updated on our journey, which resulted in people from our community helping us with both clients and housing.

The Creative Process in Practise

We get all kind of requests, but the most fun has to be the weekly request to do 'Pop Up Shops'. The first step is for us to review the brief and see if it is something we can take on. Clients book us for different reasons but the ‘on-demand’ aspect plays a big role, so the next step is to find a date as soon as possible. After accepting a client there is a ‘prep’ day and that happens the day before the 48h session starts. There are three objectives when doing this:
A. Re-brief with the client and break down the brief into one sentence.
B. Make clear the expectations from each other and define framework for delivery. C. Collect insight from the client.
From there we're ready to start the 48h session the next day and that is something we ALWAYS do onsite. We face questions like ‘Why do you Pop Up (work on-site) ?’ all the time. Our answer is that, if we need to create a good solution, which we exist to do, we need to be present with the client. Yes, we rely on digital tools for initial meetings, but when it’s time to do the work, we need to meet you, see you, feel you. That’s why we ‘pop up’. We invade your space, we demand attention and we ask you a million questions. In the middle of the 48h process, we invite the client for a mid-presentation to get some feedback. When the 48h is over there are only two things remaining: the final presentation and, based on the feedback, we create a treatment and send it the week after. As you see below our 48h process. It's not revolutionary in any way. The only difference is that we do it all in 48h.

The Learnings...

Regardless of whatever business you're running you need to balance your time between sales, development and execution. Many of the most successful companies in the world, regardless of size and industry, do it beautifully. The most common mistake companies do is to underestimate development. The only thing that is constant is change. It is crucial in all industries for business to stay up-to-date with changes, and respond accordingly.
How to create a happy, functional team? Purpose, expectations, inclusion, ownership, transparency, and diversity. This is something we actively work on, on a daily basis. We also have one of our board members Christopher-Robin Eklund come in every quarter to do a two-day TDS (Team Developing Session). It's a way for us to see how everyone in the company is doing and feeling. What happens outside of work affects the work. So the key is to see the whole person. Last but not least, every team needs an emotional quarterback.

Proudest Moment

Setting up the The Pop Up Agency as a company and being a part of its evolution was and always has been our proudest moment. From being a student side project to a company that is today based in London and has worked in 30 plus countries in the last four years. And, by the looks of it, there are no plans of slowing down. Personally, I'm richer for all these experiences. I know more and take more risks as I apply what I’m learning. I also feel more confident in my own views and actions, as well as being able to empathise and understand others better, since I have more context. So expect more from us.

Let me share our creative principles. They’re the baseline that enables our creative process to function:

# Open mindset - Start with a mindset that allows you to create

# Collaboration - The answer lies in the many

# Focus - Focus enables speed and not the other way around

Project Tags


  • The Pop Up Agency

    The Pop Up Agency

    • Design


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Founder of The Pop Up Agency