Interview with Kasper Sierslev of ZITE

Kaiyuan Xu | MUSE Design Awards
Interview with Kaiyuan Xu from United States
December 5, 2023
DDmeow | NYX Game Awards
Interview with DDmeow Games from Australia
December 6, 2023

Kasper Sierslev 

Kasper Sierslev, the Chief Commercial and Creative Officer at ZITE, specializes in the development and supervision of in-house agencies. With a career spanning over 20 years in the advertising field, he has collaborated with major global brands such as Apple, Lego, and Mars. Furthermore, Kasper is a successful author, having written two books on the subject of in-house agency operations.

Interview with the 2023 NYX Awards Winner -
Kasper Sierslev

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your background.

I'm Kasper Sierslev, currently holding the position of CCO at ZITE, where the title encompasses both Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Creative Officer responsibilities. ZITE specializes in the development and oversight of in-house agencies.

With over two decades of experience in the advertising sector, I've collaborated with major global brands like Apple, Lego, and Mars. Prior to my role at Maersk in 2014, I served as a creative director at various agencies, marking the beginning of my in-house journey. Since then, I've successfully established and managed in-house creative departments at entities such as Georg Jensen and Saxo Bank. My expertise extends to assisting other organizations and brands in forming their own teams. Additionally, I've authored two highly successful books on this subject.

2What led you to become a marketing communications professional?

I've harbored a deep-seated passion for storytelling and creative thinking, driven by my curiosity about human behavior and the potential for innovative approaches to our actions. My initial fascination with understanding consumer behavior led me to a role at Millward Brown years ago, where I conducted interviews and researched the reasons behind people's preferences for certain commercials.

This experience laid the foundation for nearly a decade in the advertising industry. However, I found the field to be too transient, with a constant cycle of pitches and swiftly moving on to the next client. I craved more enduring strategies, a deeper exploration of the customer journey, and collaboration across all touchpoints. My desire to work closely with clients in generating ideas ultimately led me to in-house work.

Immersing myself in a client's products and brand to the extent that I could almost understand them better than they did themselves was an incredible experience. Yet, I also recognized that not everything could be achieved in-house. There are moments when an external perspective and a challenge to ideas are necessary. This realization gave rise to our current approach: an external in-house model, blending the best of both worlds. Our embedded teams collaborate closely with the client's marketing team while having the flexibility to bring in specialists when that extra 'wow' factor is needed.

3What is your role in the agency, and what traits should a marketing communications professional possess to be successful in their role?

I recognize the distinctive nature of my role, which encompasses both the commercial and creative facets of our business. On the commercial side, my responsibilities involve acquiring new customers and setting up in-house agencies at their locations.

Simultaneously, in my role as the Chief Creative Officer or Executive Creative Director, I am tasked with cultivating creativity within our sites. This involves leading creative reviews, nurturing elevated creative aspirations, and occasionally actively participating in the creative team's ideation process.

4Tell us more about your agency/company.

We specialize in the analysis, design, implementation, and management of effective and innovative in-house agencies. By infusing creativity, talent, and cutting-edge technology into the core of our clients' marketing operations, we empower them with flexibility, creativity, and complete day-to-day oversight of their marketing activities at predictable costs.

I must admit, I have a penchant for delving into processes and workflows. Essentially, our focus revolves around optimizing the operational methods within in-house setups. While it might sound routine, it's genuinely intriguing. Not necessarily the process itself, but the outcomes it generates. Through the refinement of processes and the clarification of roles and responsibilities, we liberate considerable time and enhance efficiency. This surplus time and energy can then be redirected towards crafting more sophisticated creative solutions.

We've witnessed this positive transformation consistently when establishing new in-house agencies, and it's incredibly gratifying.

5What is your own definition of marketing communications?

That's a thought-provoking question, and my perspective centers on the belief that everything holds the potential for communication. It's not merely about creating traditional ads or TV spots; it could be a novel tool or a real-world object.

One of the aspects I truly appreciate about working in-house is the proximity to the decision-making process and having an in-depth understanding of the platforms and tools at our disposal. This proximity allows for quicker responses and increased efficiency. From my viewpoint, these efficiency gains should be harnessed to amplify creativity, producing not only more but superior content.

I have a compelling example from my role as the head of the in-house team at Georg Jensen, a Danish luxury jewelry brand. During a UI project for our webshop, the web team suggested that slow sales were linked to our minimalist, Scandinavian aesthetic, and they proposed adding more color to highlight the "buy" button.

However, we questioned this assumption. Upon scrutinizing the website data, we observed a unique pattern. A significant number of our customers, predominantly men, were exiting the site during the ring purchase process. Surprisingly, it wasn't because they couldn't locate the "BUY NOW" button; they found it and clicked. Then, they encountered the dropdown menu listing 13 different ring sizes. Overwhelmed, they left the page.

Recognizing this challenge, we swiftly developed the Georg Jensen RingSizer—a small web application guiding users to choose the correct ring size by placing a borrowed ring on their phone screen.

6Describe your marketing communications style and its main characteristics.

Genuine curiosity propels me forward, inspiring the belief that there might be alternative approaches to various challenges. My leadership style is centered on setting an example and fostering enthusiasm.

Although I'm not directly involved in the creative work, our creative team often seeks a starting point or someone to discuss ideas with, and that's where I play a pivotal role. Assisting and offering support brings me immense joy. Witnessing a team member present a truly innovative and creative idea is incredibly satisfying for me.

7Tell us about your ideation process.

In addition to my primary role, I oversee a small educational institution called "Contentlinjen" (or "The Content School" in English) here in Copenhagen. This school specializes in instructing creativity for content and social media, with a particular emphasis on various ideation techniques. Among these techniques, my preferred one is the "cross" method, which is remarkably straightforward.

To implement this method, you arrange the elements you wish to convey and then intersect them. The initial step involves creating a row of associations linked to your brand or brand symbols. For instance, if you're representing McDonald's, this column would include elements recognized as symbols of the brand, such as French fries, burgers (even though they are referred to as sandwiches), or the logo.

In the subsequent column, you outline symbols associated with the Unique Selling Proposition (USP). If, for example, your objective is to communicate the availability of free Wi-Fi at the restaurants, you would list all associations related to Wi-Fi or the internet.

The final phase entails merging the two columns into visual representations. This might lead to visuals like arranging French fries in the shape of a Wi-Fi symbol, designing a burger box to resemble a laptop, or depicting a hand holding a burger like a computer mouse. Despite its simplicity, this technique is highly effective and serves as an excellent starting point.

8Congratulations! As the winner of the NYX Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?
Winning awards, like the NYX Awards, it's big for us. Great for team spirit and engagement in our agencies. But what's almost as important, it opens doors for us. Gives us the chance to do more creative work. When we win awards, we can see a direct link - more invites to pitches, more asks to work on the big projects.
9What are the challenges of your winning entry(s)?

I recall a former boss who articulated it brilliantly. He expressed that within our community, there's uncertainty about whether we're exceptional, subpar, or just average. However, once recognition comes from external sources, ears start to perk up. It may sound simple, but it's undeniably true. Achieving international accolades, such as the NYX Awards, not only enhances our visibility but also increases our invitations to participate in more creative pitches and assignments.

The challenge lies in the prevailing perception, particularly in Scandinavia, that in-house agencies may not match the creativity of external counterparts. This creates a challenging cycle because how can you demonstrate your creative capabilities and compete with external agencies if you're not given the opportunity to showcase your work? Winning international awards offers a compelling way to debunk these assumptions, or at the very least, prompt a reconsideration, potentially securing opportunities in the future.

10What are the challenges of your winning entry(s)?
Time. It takes a lot of time to gather the assets you will need, write a good submission, and, in general, keep up with deadlines and categories.
11What are the current trends in the marketing communications industry that you are most excited about?

The Realm of Boundless Potential- Within this field, there are no limits. The capacity for innovation and creativity is boundless, presenting daily chances to think unconventionally and push the boundaries. Whether it's an unprecedented campaign, a disruptive strategy, or a groundbreaking piece of content, there's always space to craft something extraordinary and influential.

The Impact of Ideas - The notion that a solitary idea has the potential to transform the world deeply inspires me. A well-executed campaign possesses the ability to alter perspectives, shape behavior, and even instigate social change. The capability to construct such potent narratives and messages stands out as one of the most gratifying aspects of engaging in this industry.

The Inclusive Nature- The marketing communications industry stands out as a realm where anyone, regardless of their origin or background, can thrive. Whether a seasoned professional or a newcomer embarking on their journey, having the passion, creativity, and determination to make a difference opens up opportunities for success. This industry places value on talent and ideas above all, fostering a truly inclusive and empowering environment.

12What resources would you recommend to someone who is searching to improve their marketing communications ideas and concepts?

If someone is seeking to enhance their ideas and concepts in marketing communications, I would suggest exploring various resources. However, before delving into these materials, there's a crucial initial step: disconnect. Switch off your phone, distance yourself from the computer, and engage with the world outside. Taking a walk, observing people and surroundings, and allowing your mind to wander can offer abundant inspiration and novel perspectives by disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with the immediate environment.

Once you've taken the time to clear your mind and collect your thoughts, delving into reading materials proves to be an excellent way to further ignite creativity. Both fiction and non-fiction books can provide invaluable insights and ideas, offering diverse perspectives, cultural understandings, and exploration of different concepts.

Magazines, especially those centered around marketing and advertising, can also be extremely beneficial. They consistently showcase innovative campaigns, emerging marketing strategies, and insightful interviews with industry leaders, helping you stay abreast of the latest trends and practices.

Another recommended resource is participating in marketing seminars and workshops. These events offer opportunities to learn from industry experts, connect with fellow professionals, and gain practical experience with new tools and strategies.

Keep in mind that creativity and innovation thrive on continuous learning, curiosity, and a willingness to step beyond your comfort zone.

13Where do you see the evolution of the marketing industry in the next 5-10 years?

I believe there will be a growing inclination for brands to transition towards in-house creative development, assuming greater control over their creative processes. This trend is notably evident in Scandinavia, where an increasing number of brands are appointing In-house Creative Directors and relocating their creative functions closer to their core operations. Technological advancements are a key facilitator of this change, granting even smaller brands the capability to exert more influence over their creative endeavors.

In-house teams offer various advantages, such as a deeper comprehension of the brand's vision and values, swifter turnaround times, and enhanced collaboration between different departments. The close proximity of the creative team to other units ensures consistent messaging and more efficient coordination of marketing initiatives.

This shift doesn't imply the obsolescence of external agencies. On the contrary, they continue to play a crucial role in providing novel perspectives and specialized expertise. Nevertheless, there is a changing dynamic, with more brands acknowledging the value of a hybrid model that harnesses the strengths of both in-house teams and external agencies.

Furthermore, this transition enables brands to become more adaptable and responsive. In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, the ability to promptly generate and adjust creative content is imperative. In-house teams often exhibit greater agility in responding to market changes or shifts in consumer behavior.

The move towards increased in-house creative development also aligns with a broader trend emphasizing personalization in marketing. As brands aim to deliver more tailored and pertinent content to their audiences, having an in-house team that truly comprehends the brand's identity and audience becomes a substantial advantage.

14Who inspired you in your life, and why?

I draw inspiration from a diverse range of sources, spanning music, art, films, and more. Maintaining an open mind and actively seeking new experiences is a priority for me. I explore unfamiliar places, try different cuisines, and delve into various music genres.

In my personal life, my granddad’s sister, an adventurous globetrotter in the 1930s, serves as an early and significant source of inspiration. Her travels to places like China and India sparked my curiosity, and her artistic talent brought immense joy. Together, we spent countless afternoons sketching animals at the zoo and absorbing the vibrant life around us.

In my professional life, certain books have profoundly shaped my perspective. Luke Sullivan's "Hey Whipple, Squeeze This" was a transformative read, providing insights into the advertising world that I hadn't previously considered. Another impactful influence has been David Ogilvy's "Ogilvy on Advertising," a book I've revisited numerous times for its wealth of wisdom on advertising practices.

Fundamentally, I believe inspiration is ubiquitous, waiting to be discovered everywhere if we're willing to look. It can be found in the grand narratives of books or the subtle details captured in art. At times, it emerges from ordinary life moments, the distinct flavors of a new dish, or the rhythm of a song we've never encountered before.

15What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
Haha. I always say, “You can’t bore people to buy your products”. You have to try to entertain or be interesting.

Winning Entries

Hyundai Ioniq 6 - launch - Watt’s Next | 2023

Hyundai Ioniq 6 - launch - Watt's Next | Kasper Siersley, NCG Agency / ZITE, Hyundai Denmark
Situation: In a market where most car advertising headlines all say "100% electric," how do you ...
(read more at NYX Awards)

Hyundai Easter Greetings | 2023

Hyundai Easter Greetings | ZITE
Sometimes it is all about flipping things upside down – or, in this case, only 90 ̊– to see things in a new light. ...
(read more at NYX Awards)

Kasper Sierslev


Kasper Sierslev, the Chief Commercial and Creative Officer at ZITE, specializes in the development and supervision of in-house agencies. With a career spanning over 20 years in the advertising field, he has collaborated with major global brands such as Apple, Lego, and Mars. Furthermore, Kasper is a successful author, having written two books on the subject of in-house agency operations.

Read more about this interview with Patrick McCaully from the United States, the Grand Winner of the 2023 NYX Awards.