Folker Wrage, Chief Creative Officer, Havas Worldwide, Switzerland

Folker Wrage photo web

From psychology student, flight attendant, DJ and journalist to copywriter. What a journey. What are your most memorable experiences?
We never know how lucky we are, how memorable a moment is when we experience it. I travelled through Yemen when it was a peaceful country, through Congo when it was safe to go and experience the jungle, and Syria when it was still beautiful and prosperous. And during the days when I was a music journalist, I met some really inspiring people. Talking to Underworld’s Karl Hyde or Can’s Jaki Liebezeit for example – just thinking about those interviews still gives me goose bumps.

You stayed in your first agency for ten years, a smart decision as you said. Why?
Young creatives often think they need to change agencies early – to quickly gain experience, but primarily to increase their salaries quickly. That’s not necessarily a smart thing to do. I could have made more money earlier, and I did have a few really nice offers back then. But I stayed. Simply because it was a good place.

Psychology is a part of our daily lives. Do you think that people in creative industries are using its knowledge enough?
We do know quite a lot about perception, and how emotions work, how people learn and form opinions. I don’t think that we should think about how we use this knowledge better – it often just translates into tools and tricks and mechanisms. But we should be more aware of what moves and motivates people. The more we know, the better we communicate.

You say for yourself that you are a lifelong learner. How does this influence your private and professional life?
I can’t imagine a moment when I am not happy to learn something new. Curiosity is what makes me move, and change is something that I really love. Working in different kinds of communication agencies, living in different countries, always discovering new music, and relating to all kinds of people – if I didn’t have that, I could not be a happy person.

People that we work with, bosses, partners, and co-workers are very important. How can we detect an asshole among them?
Very easy. Assholes are people who will threaten or insult co-workers, people that violate personal space, or humiliate others. Dishonest people, liars, people that happily take credit for other people’s work. Just to name a few obvious symptoms. But we should never think that someone that is demanding or difficult is an asshole. Most of them just want to do the best possible job.

Curiosity, honesty, and humility are some of crucial values in organization. You say you managed to remain a sane and friendly person in advertising. How?
First of all by understanding that advertising is one of the least important lines of work on the planet. We could not survive without doctors, or farmers. But we sure don’t need advertising. So we should be happy to be able to do what we are doing. I live a privileged life, and I am grateful for that. Secondly, I somehow found a way to avoid assholes, or how to deal with them when I have to. I need to be able to trust people to perform on a high level. Hard to achieve, but better than turning into an asshole myself.

You are a relentless optimist. What would be your advice to the ones on the other side?
I think that it’s a very simple logic. Optimism will always lead to a more enjoyable state of mind. Being miserable can’t be desirable. If you expect things to go wrong, and they do – what have you achieved? Nothing. I prefer to be a happy person. I prefer to think that positive things happen when you have a positive attitude and mind-set. The bad stuff happens without any help from our side. The good stuff is what we have to take care of ourselves.

If you would have to describe your current work in terms used in aviation, how would you describe it? Do you always have a “flight plan”?
Flight plans don’t make sense. At least not for life. You just take off one day, and have no clue how long you’re going to fly, which route you are going to take. Your destination keeps changing on an almost daily basis, and you never know when you are going to touch down. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Just imagine the pilot saying: “Welcome on the flight of your life. The flight time to your grave will be 76 years, 3 months, and 4 hours. We’ll be serving two marriages, one divorce, and three children. And just before landing we will serve dementia and pneumonia.” We should be happy to not know what’s going to happen next.

What would be your message to Golden Drum delegates?
Learn. Be good people. Enjoy your work. Understand how privileged you are to be able to work in this industry. Have a good time, but don’t miss the lectures ;)

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