.

Hopefully we don't really have websites in a traditional sense 10 years from now. I think the lines between sites, services, apps and hardware will blur more and more, and that 10 years from now we will be fully immersed in information. By then we can hopefully move from the age of information into the age of intelligence.

Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

I'm a 36 year old Dane, living and working in Los Angeles since 2010. When I was in my early twenties my ambition was to end up in Los Angeles through performing arts, but as it turns out it was advertising that paid the ticket here. I went from being a geek, coding Basic on my Commodore 64, to being a singing, acting and dancing geek on the stage, and then back to being a geek, now coding in ActionScript.

Today I'm working at BBH Los Angeles as creative technology director. Before that I was at ACNE Production in Los Angeles and at LBi/Framfab in Copenhagen, Denmark.

What do you do for inspiration?

I look for problems. When I was younger I created a lot of solutions to non-existing problems, but as I've matured I find that inspiration comes through identifying and analyzing real problems that real people have. So I observe myself and people around me and look for the challenges we have in our lives and interacting with things and each other. My 3-year-old daughter Europa is a constant source of problems and therefore inspiration to me.

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

http://arstechnica.com is a site I've come back to a lot in recent years, almost daily. They have very smart writers, and I like to think of them as observing and describing the world through technology. The community is also really smart, and discussions on Ars Technica are always worth a read.

https://www.coursera.org and the concept of Massive Online Open Courses that they represent is an enormous inspiration to me. My wife is a doctoral student of Psychology, and one thing that really amazes me about her field is how they continue to educate themselves until the day they die. My ambition is to do the same thing for myself, and Coursera is an amazing source for that.

Fast Company, in particular http://www.fastcocreate.com/ is a site I keep coming back to for inspiration.

Oh, and reddit.

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

I think everyone working in advertising wants to create something that transcends advertising and becomes culture. I was lucky enough to work as tech lead on such a project back in my Framfab days: Nike Football: The Chain. It was user generated content way before it was cool and way, way before it stopped being cool again. It's one of the few times in my career I've met people outside the industry who would tell me they were inspired by work I've been a part of. Especially boys around the age of 11, the toughest but most enthusiastic audience imaginable.

I also have to say I'm pretty proud of my daughter who so far has turned out to be a pretty likable little creature.

How do you relax or unwind?

I brought my mountain bike over from Denmark, and although I don't get to ride it as often as I'd like to, I fully enjoy it when I do. The focus on surviving and enjoying the ride when you're racing downhill is simply amazing. I also enjoy live concerts a lot, in particular music festivals. I can look forward to a particular concert or festival for weeks, and that really helps me relax and keep focus.

If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?

I already mentioned that I have a background in performing arts, so it's somewhere in that field. But I have to say that reality caught up with me, because so many things about being on stage suck - in particular having to constantly sell yourself and always being a struggling artist. So I'd probably settle for something backstage. I've recently gotten more serious with music production and could definitely see myself doing that.

What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?

I absolutely love solving creative problems. I used to be a rockstar Flash developer back in the day when Flash was the only answer to every problem, but now I find that you need to master a number of different disciplines in art and technology to build solutions to problems. And the hardest part of that has been to realize that I can no longer solve everything by myself; I need an amazing team around me that complement me and inspire me. I'm very lucky to have such a team working with me at BBH. So they're the ones I turn to when I get stuck.

What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?

I've pulled my share of all-nighters going well into the next day. Fortunately it's been a while since last time. On my 3rd day in the US I pulled my first all-nighter to help salvage a project that had gone astray. That was a very warm welcome to the new world. I know everyone is saying they can't function or be productive after midnight or 2AM or whatever, but I guess I'm wired differently; I can keep going, although even I will stop being functional around the time other people start coming in to work the next day. 

Falling asleep after an all-nighter is the best.

If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?

After I finished my university degree I accepted a nice, steady full-time job as a PHP developer at a nice, steady web shop in Copenhagen. 2 days into my new job I got a call from Jesper Arvidson from Framfab. Jesper had been the external examiner on some of my projects at the IT University of Copenhagen, and it seems he liked what he saw. So he offered me a 3 month contract to work on the Nike Football account. The decision was between the nice, steady, secure full-time job and 3 months of 70+ hour weeks with no guarantee of future employment. I quit my new job the next day and took the contract. I've never regretted that decision. 

I was quickly offered a full-time position, Jesper became a mentor to me, I got to work with incredible talent, and I got to make valuable contributions to a series of amazing, award-winning projects for the various Nike accounts Framfab had back then. That was the foundation of my career, I had a great time and I'm very grateful to Jesper and everyone else that I got to work with back then.

What software could you not live without?

I used to say FDT, but alas, not anymore. Sublime is very valuable these days for prototyping in all sorts of languages, and so is XCode, since I'm forced to work on OS X. Oh, and I actually find myself working with a surprisingly large number of applications in the Adobe Creative Suite. Creative Cloud is the best thing ever. I also really like the terminal.

But I'm going to have to say Ableton Live. Music Production is a huge creative outlet for me these days, and after trying a bunch of different DAWs I've really come to like Ableton.

How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?

My unit in BBH is called ZAG, and our biggest focus is product and platform innovation with Google Play. What are the challenges with consuming entertainment today, and how can we use technology to solve those challenges? We have a good handful of projects in various states with Google Play, as well as our own internal projects and projects with other BBH clients. If I look generously at my folder with active projects, I probably count around 10 in there.

In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?

If we expand the question to include technology in general, I have to say Microsoft's HoloLens is getting me more excited than any technology I've seen in many, many years. I'm simply dying to get my hands on one and start changing the world with it.

Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?

The awards from FWA as well as the industry awards have helped me get recognized outside of the places I work, and they're definitely the reason I've been able to land great jobs in the US. The FWA awards also mean a lot to my sense of accomplishment, since they're awarded by people who know what they're talking about. I also feel they're awarded for the actual work, not for the case study.

When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?

Since moving from the production side at ACNE to the agency side at BBH I've started focusing much more on our target audiences and their needs. With Google Play as a very big client of ours, focus is naturally on entertainment and how the audience consumes, interacts with and (hopefully) enjoys entertainment. Google Play really represents the whole gamut of entertainment, from extreme niche to very mainstream. Understanding that audience is a real challenge, but we have very smart people at BBH helping us with that, which is definitely a benefit of switching to the agency side.

The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?

A big part of the work I do now requires that I solve the problem in the best, most efficient and creative way possible. And very often that means using tools, technologies or mediums that I don't fully understand. But my educational background and experience has taught me how to understand unknown skills and material to a point where I can make the call on whether they can help me solve my problem or not. Another incredibly important skill is being able to identify individuals and organizations that have skills that I don't have, so that they can help me solve my problem.

Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?

Hopefully we don't really have websites in a traditional sense 10 years from now. I think the lines between sites, services, apps and hardware will blur more and more, and that 10 years from now we will be fully immersed in information. By then we can hopefully move from the age of information into the age of intelligence.

Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?

I already mentioned The Chain. Other than that I'm very happy with Track My Macca's, which ACNE Production did with Tribal DDB Sydney. I also very much enjoyed doing the Yahoo! Bus Stop Derby with Goodby, Silverstein and Partners in San Francisco. I guess none of those are websites, but they sure were fun projects.

Another recent project that I REALLY think was cool, but that wasn't exactly a success in terms of engagement, was O'Hare Party Tools, another project with GS&P. It was a mobile website that would let you upload a full body photo of yourself. We would then rig and animate your body to perform a dance battle against a friend. We used a 2D skeletal animation engine called Spine, and the results were incredibly good. Not a lot of people noticed it, but what I love about it is how we combined so many different, un-related technologies into something that was really cool and fun. Feels weird to bring that one up among all the award-winning projects, but you gotta have your darlings.

What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?

One of the last things I did at LBi was a crazy big MMOG, which we built entirely in Flash. It involved a very large team, including a lot of outside resources and a very sophisticated backend; I learned about Redis way before it became mainstream because of that. I also remember Flash 10.0 having a crazy memory management bug that almost killed us. The project didn't really work until 10.1 was released, which was after our deadline. Actually that bug wouldn't have affected us if we had embraced sprite sheets, but unfortunately we didn't learn about that clever technique until it was too late.

To this day I'm amazed how often using sprite sheets will solve technical issues, even as we move onto technologies such as realtime 3D, Augmented and Virtual Reality.

How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?

The answer is dead simple: You learn by doing. I wrote so much ActionScript back in the day that I can write full, bug-free Flash applications in my sleep, even though I haven't written ActionScript in years. And to this day, when I'm writing Python, C++ or even JavaScript I constantly have to Google everything, simply because I don't use it that often. Well that, and because none of the modern development tools are anywhere near as good as FDT was for ActionScript.

No matter what creative skill you're trying to learn, you gotta start building stuff right away. Follow the online courses, take the tutorials but make sure you perform all the exercises, even when you think you understand the subject. 

And ask people who are smarter than you; sometimes I'm the person answering the question, sometimes I'm the person asking it, but no matter what side I'm on I always find that I learn from exchanging knowledge with my peers.

But the most important thing I did was go to school. My fundamental and theoretical understanding of communication, aesthetics, arts, data and programming comes from my university background. I know there is an education bubble on its way, and I do come from a land of free education, but seriously: Go to school!

What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?

I want to pick up 3D modeling and animation again, I haven't really touched it since university. So I've decided to start learning Blender. Isn't it amazing that a tool as sophisticated as that can be free and community driven? You gotta love open source.

What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?

As I already mentioned I'm more or less being forced to work on OS X, and I'm not enjoying that at all. I switched to Windows shortly before leaving ACNE Production, and I'm currently negotiating buying my old computer from my old boss at ACNE, so that I can start using Windows at home. We'll see how that turns out. Seriously, with Windows 10 and HoloLens, Microsoft once again have the edge.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much

Thank you, the privilege has been all mine.


Links

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Martin Pagh Ludvigsen
Martin Pagh Ludvigsen

With fellow BBH / ZAG team members J.P. Guiseppi and Avery Prommer
With fellow BBH / ZAG team members J.P. Guiseppi and Avery Prommer

Nike Football: The Chain. Role: Tech Lead

Yahoo! Bus Stop Derby. Role: Interactive Director. Read more about the project here: http://bit.ly/1F2PTQx

Track My Macca's. Role: Interactive Director. Read more about the project here: http://bit.ly/1FT1QZO

GE Performance Machines. Role: Interactive Director. Read more about the project here: http://bit.ly/1Ilzzgc

O'Hare Party Tools. Role: Creative Technology Director
O'Hare Party Tools. Role: Creative Technology Director

Nike Football: The Perfect Kick. Role: Tech Lead

Nike SB Debacle Online Premiere. Role: Technical Director

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