If you want to change the future, you must start with content

At the age of seven, her mother picked her up from Thailand where she lived on the streets for over two years after the death of her grandmother. She grew up in Bremen and learned the language by watching TV commercials. A bright mind and a great creative, opposed to the typical German way of thinking about hierarchies. A woman in her early forties who made it from the streets of Thailand to the board of an international advertising agency. And now she is on a mission to change the future with her new networking agency VC:X. Meet Seeda Kreuzer, creative director and part of the Viva con Agua Foundation.

How was it for you, as a seven-year-old girl who lived on the streets of Thailand, to start school in Germany?

It was strange, obviously. I didn’t go to school immediately, because my mom and her husband thought I didn’t understand the language. So, the first couple of months I spent in front of the TV. This is how I learned to speak and understand German rather quickly. One of my favourite things on TV were the commercials. One of them I will always remember: it’s a commercial from Mirakoli, a pasta brand from Italy. The mother calls out ‘Mirakoli!’ and then the whole family comes running in for dinner. I remember it as a very colourful commercial. The sun is shining, the family is happy, everything is good.

Is that where the seed was planted that made you go into advertising?

I like commercials and movies a lot because of the feeling they can create in the audience. But I never had the ambition or the idea to become a producer myself. It was more of a coincidence and an opportunity that I grabbed with both hands. 

After my bachelor’s degree in communications, I went to Berlin and got a job there. That was the era of the Internet, around 1998. But that didn’t last long, because the bubble burst. After a few years in Berlin, I moved to Munich and started working for ABInBev as a creative. I created a campaign for a product launch and got the chance to do my first creative film production. I had a concept for this commercial and then they asked me, “Can you produce this?” “Of course I can!” But in reality, I had never done that before.

Seeda Kreuzer

Oh yes, I can relate: first say yes and then find out how… that’s what gets you places, doesn’t it? And how did that go? 

It was perfect. I got to work with a very good production agency and learned so much! The DoP for this commercial was Nikolaus Summerer. He was such a great inspiration. And it was very cool because I created the whole idea, the concept and then this great production team shot the commercial on location in eight days. You can imagine that I learned so much! 

The way Nicholas works…. Sometimes he would just stand in the room and not say anything. Everyone was silent. For about 10 or 15 minutes he could stand there and not say anything. He would just observe the room he was in. And you know… now I’m doing exactly the same thing. In early 2021, we had a production in South Africa. I would go out to the place where we were shooting a video, and then I’d just stand there and feel the atmosphere. I’d see what the light is doing and where the wind was coming from. Then a few hours later you’d have to do it again. What has changed? How can we work with it? Will the mountain interfere with the light…I really take the time to walk around by myself. Take the time to become part of the place that underlies the feeling we want to give our audience with the film. I should have done that a lot more in the past!

Seeda Kreuzer

So you are always on the set with your team? How did that work when you were a member of the board of this big international advertising agency and were managing a big team in three different cities?

I worked six or seven days a week and around eight to 12 hours per day. But I like to work with my team. I need to get my hands dirty. I can’t sit in an office for more than two hours. For example; In Germany it is common that you lunch with someone from your own level. But I don’t do that. I need to be in the middle of a team. I don’t care much about titles. You spend like eight to ten hours a day with the people you work with. That is even more then I spend with my family. To work with the team and carry cables, cameras and other things just as the rest of the team, I hope to set an example for others. We should be working as a team. No one should stand above the others…. at least that is not my idea of leadership.

So you are quite an atypical manager by German standards. Is that also the reason why you quit your job and started your own agency?

No, not really. But I worked a lot of hours. And in 2020, when the pandemic hit us, I had to work even harder. At some point, I couldn’t take it anymore, and my health suffered. Of course, it wasn’t the first time I thought about changing my life, but that was my wake-up call to take a new path. And for me, that path is to use my creative skills for a better future. Actually, my son already made me think about it. I have three children and my oldest, who is now 17, is really forward-thinking. I was working for Mercedes and we were doing a launch event for a new model. My son asked very honestly, ‘Why are you doing this, Mom? This car is bad for the planet.’

Seeda Kreuzer

And now you are going to use your creativity for a better cause. How exactly does that work?

My new agency, VC:X is a network agency and part of the Viva con Agua Foundation. Everything we do is focused on sustainability, meaningfulness, and pure joy. Viva con Agua is a community to inspire, to bring people together, to create sense and to push for a better future. It is a global network of people and institutions based on the same idea: ‘Everybody should have access to clean water and basic sanitary services.’ With the profits of VC:X we support the projects of the Viva con Agua Foundation. I had pitched this idea to existing agencies before, but no one really believed it was possible to find partners for it. But I think I have proven them wrong by now. 

Just one question as a devil’s advocate: how do you decide when something fits the idea of sustainable? For example, what if Shell comes by for a documentary film about new energy? Or Coca Cola that wants a commercial about how they stimulate the recycling of plastics?

Viva con Agua has a lot of experience in working together with brands or companies and putting them to the test beforehand. Do they really take corporate responsibility seriously? Is sustainability firmly anchored in the principles or are they trying to hide the general lack of sustainability through individual projects? VC:X would like to work towards the fact that not only advertising, but also the companies behind it, must strive for and implement a serious change in values. That’s why we will be very precise in this area and work with brands that meet our criteria. Fortunately, we can fall back on the expertise of Viva con Agua. Of course, mistakes can still happen from time to time. That is why Viva con Agua has an additional corrective: the committee of volunteers. This is an elected body of voluntary supporters who form an interface between the full-time employees and the about ten thousand voluntary supporters, who are socially committed. The committee accompanies all activities of Viva con Agua (and thus also in the future of VC:X) very critically, especially regarding ecological, social and development issues, and gives those volunteers a voice.

Seeda Kreuzer

And what is it you are going to change in the world of content with VC:X? 

In my days at the big agencies and big brands, productions went hand in hand with big budgets. And as much as I enjoyed those productions, I’m also aware that it can be done with much less. It’s almost like every production needs a new feature. But all we should care about is the emotion we want to convey to our audience when they see our videos, our stories. And that emotion can be the same when you’re shooting a film from your skateboard or roller skates, as my team often does, as when you’re using a camera track and a lot of people to manage all the footage. 

But an even more important part of VC:X involves story. I will use my creative skills and experience to shine a light on things that need a voice. If you want to change the future, you have to start with content. And I can make meaningful content and compelling stories. I’m not talking about commercials, where the focus of brands is usually the ‘buy this or you die’ approach. I’m talking about creating true stories, stories with a purpose, and stories that need to be told. Like ‘Black Lives Matter’. I’m a part of that and I’ll continue to do my part in the future.

And five years from now? What will have happened in that time?

In five years VC:X has multiple physical units across Europe. These units are all independent units, but since we are a network agency, a platform, anybody can join. I like this huge vision. And if we work together we can really change the conversation, the emotions towards a better future.

Want to learn more from Seeda and other European content marketing thought leaders? Join them at WeContent Festival 2022, a must-attend event for content creators and marketing professionals.

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