Johannes Hapig: Sacha Moser, Pascal Baumann, to start with I have to ask you a question about the photo shoot we did for this interview: Concrete backdrop, Berlin aesthetic, tattoos - Is Foundry's goal here in Switzerland to become "the most handsome people in advertising"?
Sacha Moser and Pascal Baumann (unison): Thank you for the compliment. But we would prefer "The most hands-on people in advertising".
Sacha Moser This is more in line with both of our characters and is hopefully also the greater added value for our growth-oriented customers.
Pascal Baumann, you joined Foundry as Creative Tribe Leader after leaving Sir Mary. But you've known Foundry founder Sacha Moser for a long time. Do you remember when you met for the first time?
Baumann: Phew..., that's a difficult question. I think we met for the first time at Publicis. Sacha was a permanent employee and I was a freelancer. We looked after a joint client, then saw each other again and again - before the pandemic often at airports, I must say, because in normal times we both worked a lot from airport lounges. And so, after I said goodbye to Sir Mary, we got talking quite naturally.
Moser: I was of course enormously pleased, but also surprised. I think you contacted me first?! The possibility that you join here, I would not have dreamed at first. But we didn't rush into anything, we developed ideas together in a very relaxed way ... and even now we are calmly looking at what suits us.
Sacha Moser, you don't run a "classic" communications agency. What exactly does Foundry do?
Moser: We help companies to grow. Our clients are mainly substantial startups, but also established companies that want or need to realign themselves. We check and optimize strategy, processes and branding; take care of marketing and communication. But we also lend a hands-on hand when a flagship store has to be cancelled. (laughs). In general, we are here for all those who operate with a "beginner spirit". Or would like to learn to do so. Good examples include our client partners Planted and Alpian, and the very recent addition to the Tribe, the Student Projecthouse, ETH's in-house startup incubator.
You are Swiss, but until now you have primarily built Foundry in Berlin. Why the return or expansion to your home country now?
Moser: Our strategy is growth. Not only for us, but also for our clients. Until the beginning of 2020, we mainly served an international clientele, but for a while now we have been adding more and more internationally active companies from Switzerland or with important Swiss branches. That's why we really wanted to strengthen our Zurich location.
Pascal Baumann, was that also the reason why you left Sir Mary? Did you want to "build up" again?
Baumann: On the one hand, I'm sure that's an important reason. On the other hand, Sir Mary was getting a bit too crowded for me. Sir Mary is primarily a locally oriented agency...
...which is extremely successful in Switzerland.
Baumann: Yes, and rightly so! But I had always worked rather internationally before my time at Sir Mary and I felt that I missed that. I love my colleagues on Bertastrasse, and I miss them too, because they are fantastic people. But after the pandemic, we will only be celebrating together, not working together. (laughs). Foundry opens up new perspectives for me: There are clients here that I find insanely exciting. Planted, Alpian and the ETH Startup Incubator are all very digitally oriented, but not yet jaded by the "castling" by all the big agencies. These are companies that you haven't already worked for several times in your career.
What is different about these companies?
Baumann: They have young, ambitious employees who still want to achieve something. I have learned that for me, the beginning of a project, when there is a lot to define and create, is always the most exciting. Whether it's at Foundry in Switzerland or at the companies we serve as clients. This freedom to be innovative, to improvise, to simply do things, gives me great pleasure. Hands-on, that is... Later on, it becomes "cerebral" and structured enough. (laughs)
It sometimes seems to me that the only real freedom you have in advising clients is when you work for startups, turnaround cases, or at best NGOs?
Moser: Well, that certainly depends on the situation. In general, I would say that when someone "has to" communicate - to make themselves known, to realign their business, or simply because their economic survival depends on it - the willingness to come up with really creative solutions is greater. Of course, we can then bring in more unconventional ideas. But you also have to wear a very big hat. Because if a project fails, you have even more responsibility. That's when you have to roll up your sleeves.
Speaking of "hands-on". Pascal Baumann, I still remember well how you once printed 8,000 copies of our Advertising week have sprayed by hand with graffiti.
Baumann: Do you also remember the tendonitis I suffered? (laughs) I just put my heart and soul into everything I do. Sometimes, of course, I think I could have gone to a government agency. Then I would sit in front of a screen for six to eight hours and maybe make zoom calls. But when we're out of the woods with this pandemic, the analog is all the more important to me. I want to create visual worlds that you can not only look at, but that you can feel.
What Sacha Moser said earlier about painting the shops fits in with this.
Moser: I would like to emphasize that once again: Brand building works for us on different levels - digital, of course, but we also build spaces. Right now, we have a project in Geneva where we are expanding 1400 square meters of studios for the new, digital customer service. An important touchpoint. In Berlin, we developed the concept for 120 shops for the cable network and Internet provider Pyur. These are brand experiences across borders, across dimensions. We take our cue from Pippi Longstocking in all the tasks that come our way - what did she once say? "We've never tried that before - so it's bound to go well!" Of course we have the necessary experience and specialists, but it is a question of attitude.
Baumann: That's also a totally important point for me that makes Foundry. I mean, of course it's advertising, of course it's communication, but I've rarely experienced so much variation in an agency. We don't just do digital campaigns, social media - we also do interior design, design books, clothes, films... Where else can you find that?
Their unofficial company motto, I learned in the preliminary interview, is "Mindset Beats Skillset."
Moser: That's right! It's even written on the cups we have in the kitchenette. This comes from Markus, one of our leading employees, and shapes Foundry - or rather the people who are at Foundry. We are equal parts strategically led and creatively driven, and we derive our principles from that. For example, we said last March 2020, when it all started, no matter what, we're not going to lay anyone off in the next twelve months. By the time it got towards June, July 2020, and the situation remained so complex, I was sweating a bit. But it was absolutely worth it. Because we invested in the team once again, put the pedal to the metal in the last two quarters and won new customers. And already in Q4 2020, we were able to record our biggest growth since the start of the company. For many, this crisis was also an opportunity; especially in the digital area, we have an enormous number of inquiries. That is why we have built up a new performance and media unit.
Your business model is to help ideas come to life. Do you think there will be a start-up boom after the pandemic - and that Foundry will then gain even more exciting clients?
Baumann: You raise a very important point there. You can think what you like about Corona and all the measures. But they had one brilliant aspect - and that was the time to rethink. The calm gave you a chance to see your own point of view and, more importantly, where you wanted to go. If you held on to old ways of doing things during the crisis, of course, you didn't stand a chance. But if you used the time to get your bearings, to see what opportunities were out there for you to grow ... it was incredible. And - without wanting to sound cynical - somehow I'll miss that as soon as it's over. That pioneering spirit you feel is with us into the future. Woe betide you if you didn't use it.
At Foundry according to the agency, are "doers with a hands-on mentality" who "love to build brands that last". In doing so, the team around founder Sacha Moser relies on the "power of relevant and differentiating content, defining aesthetics, bold ideas and groundbreaking partnerships."
In recent years, Foundry has grown rapidly and now has offices in Berlin, Zurich and New York City. But the basic principles have not changed: "Creatively driven and strategically guided, we support companies and organizations in developing a shared vision. This is how we ensure sustainable growth and create solutions that touch people and move them in a positive way," the agency says.