Every now and then I try to introduce my readers to people that I meet and that I find interesting and inspiring. Kris Hoet is one of them. I met him as a co-presenter at a conference in Amsterdam last year. And when we chatted over our day jobs I found out that his agency is responsible for some of the most successful web videos (aka ‘virals’) lately. Or to be completely precise here: they are possibly the most successful young creative agency in the world right now.

Some examples are


Get to know Kris Hoet:

Kris, would you introduce agency?

My name is Kris Hoet and I’m Head of Digital / Change Architect at an agency called Duval Guillaume Modem. We are what we call an ‘idea centric communications agency’ based in Antwerp. We used to have another office in Brussels as well. But since we were acquired by Publicis Groupe and they already have an agency in Brussels, we combined all our forces in Antwerp. Even though we belong to Publicis we do operate independently within the group, hence why we keep our own name as well and can position ourselves as a creative ‘hot shops’ of the group, similar to Marcel in Paris or Mojo in Australia.

I don’t think too many people know the agency by name (although that might have improved a bit after this year’s Cannes festival), but some of our campaigns have gotten quite some visibility. Think of “Push to add drama” for TNT, “Bikers” for Carlsberg or “Girls going wild in the red light district” for Stop The Traffik. Campaigns that went viral during the last few months. We do however also do Print, TV, Radio,… And all kinds of more traditional work as well, albeit always with a very creative angle.

What does your title mean? Why Head of Digital and Change Architect?

My role at the agency as Head of Digital is twofold. First of all I’m in charge of digital strategy, working together with our brand strategists to make sure we bring truly integrated strategies. And although we all have our areas of expertise (brand, digital, social, …) we don’t like to tear the brief apart so we can all do some of it on our own. Instead we try to use the experts to make sure we bring one answer to each brief from the start.

I am also responsible within the agency for how we integrate digital overall, working with CD’s and CSD’s to make that work. So this is about how we organize ourselves for digital within the creative process. How we produce things (internally or externaly). In fact these organizational aspects are extremely interesting since we typically try out things. In other words: there is no blueprint for what we do, which is ‘building a new type of agency’. We iterate and keep what works, or –alternatively – change what doesn’t work.

Then there is this Change Architect title, which is an extension of my role that got added only a few months ago. It’s basically the idea that digital has been the driver for quite a lot of change, and that we don’t just want to look at digital. Instead we want to look at change in general. This is a job opportunity that I believe in a lot myself and that I think could become pretty big in the future.

So what you say is: digital is just part, possibly a driver of a broader societal change?

When you look at how digital has change the way we work, how we watch tv, how we educate our kids, … you name it it’s fair to say that much of the change that has happened the last 10+ years is driven by the evolution in digital. That’s why we want to look at that change and see what we can learn from that. Currently we look at digital or technology and think about how we could put it to use, or we look at what consumers want and try to figure out how technology can help in achieving that. That’s alright but we want to look at the change itself, try to understand it and see how we can use that learning somewhere else. Much more interesting.

What are your favourite cases from your agency and/or beyond?

There are quite a few cases that I like a lot, some that I worked on a lot myself, some that I didn’t. The TNT and Carlsberg cases are 2 recent ones, but there’s some TV work we did that I like a lot like “Bar Fight” for Spa for instance or “Streaker” for Tabasco.

Or cases that used technology in an interesting way like “The Crying Invoice” for IKKI, “Baby Connection” for Nutricia or “I-Ad” for AXA Bank.

And I’ve always been a fan of the “Keep on dreaming of a better world” for Ché Men’s magazine, work that is from before I joined the agency. And let’s not forget to mention my all time favorite, the “Leon” case for the National Milk Board.

Beyond the agency – too much to mention. I come across really great work all year long, most of which I post on my Posterous. Part of my inspiration comes from that work but also from innovation or just awesome things that happen in totally different industries, just take a look there.

Do clients brief you on a viral film? Is there such a thing or is it just a bit more hardcore version of a TV ad?

There are (and always will be I presume) clients that ask us to make a TVC go viral, sometimes based on work that was created by our client’s global mother.

But mostly when clients want a viral campaign, they will brief us separately on that. And given the recent successes for TNT, Carlsberg or Opvoedingslijn they have faith in us for pulling it of. Although I have to add to that that we don’t believe we create ‘a viral’, we can create buzz campaigns, campaigns that we believe people will talk about, but there is no control at all over the viral effect.

We prefer it when a client wants to create a campaign that has a lot of talk/share potential by creating a story that is edgy and challengenging which thus might provoke conversations to earn media. I respect clients such as TNT and Carlsberg for willing to take the risk to do campaigning like this, since there’s no guarantee on the result. They might end up with a disproportionate share of media compared to the initial budget but you’re not buying media so you don’t know in advance.

Is there a secret formula for successful storytelling online?

We don’t believe there’s a secret formula. If there was any it would have been much easier for us as well to make successes like TNT and it would be much easier to sell such campaigns. Most of those campaigns have taken us several months from briefing to end result whereas the actual filming took less than a day for most of them.

There are various elements that you need to look at on the level of CONTENT, CULTURE & TECHNIQUE. With content we mean the type of content that works well with your audience (unexpected, original, …), with culture we are referring to things like relevance for instance and technique is about what you create that you want people to spread.

For instance we will always include video at some point because it’s one of the best techniques to be used with this type of campaign. Video is a very rich audiovisual experience but it allows brands as well to keep control of the story in a time there’s no more control. You can craft a message in such a way (editing, music, …) that you get the maximum effect and when people share it they share it generally for the full 100%, so even when you share a video to your friends what will make them be susceptible for the video the message is how it’s meant to be by the brand.

If there’s one tip we can give then I think it’s this one – it’s about truly understanding why video is important for both consumer as well as brand. You’ll see that even for a special print ad or an online game we will have a video as part of the social campaign.

Thanks a lot Kris!

Do you want to ask Kris anything? Just leave a comment. Or follow him on twitter.