#AdForumSummit Amsterdam: Dutch agencies emphasise diversity
by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) AMSTERDAM: Unlike the 2018 AdForum Worldwide Summit in New York, the one in Europe was a three-day affair — but with a more-packed agenda resulting in a significant number of agencies being seen last week Wednesday to Friday, 26–28 September 2018. Thirty global pitch- and relationship-consultants descended on Amsterdam for three intense days with agencies of all types.
Diversity and the future
Amsterdam as a city is fascinating and I’d had not been here for many years. The Dutch are committed to clean air, social responsibility and fairness. They’re also very welcoming and they exult in the cosmopolitan nature of their city and their industries — especially the ad industry. Many agencies that we met always included a note about how many different nationalities they have among their staff, something told with great pride. Diversity is foremost in their minds — very refreshing — and we certainly witnessed the future of the industry — very revealing.
As we started the summit, the news of the VML and Y&R global merger broke (this happened very successfully in South Africa much earlier this year after a period of integration since July 2016) so the unstoppable march of digital was a hot topic, obviously.
We visited five agencies on Day 1; it was a tight schedule, considering we only started at midday. Luckily, Amsterdam is much easier to get around than when we are in New York!
Established in 1999, N=5 is an experienced, independent agency that can provide the “full 360-degrees” in advertising. A very successful agency, social responsibility is a very important part of its work, as well as technology. With 70 people, it has been until now only in Holland but is starting to expand into neighbouring countries. The current clients list consists of about 15, all based in Holland; it mainly service brands as they are open to innovation but it also has a number of FMCG clients.
- Agency positioning: “Creativity for brands”
ABN Amro, Telefort, and KPN as examples.
- The story of Evert 45: a case study by KPN to bring World War II to life. On YouTube.
- iPhone 6 case study: increase your pocket size
- Sven: the conflict of beauty — women — solve the conflict.
We met this agency about five years ago when we were in Copenhagen for one of the European summits. It had just established a new model at the start of the digital revolution and that model remains true to today. There are offices in Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam, with associates in Los Angeles, Montreal, Dubai, Bangalore, Beijing and Tokyo.
- Agency positioning: “Creating culturally relevant, beautifully intelligent stories”
It handles global and local clients from small to large. It also believes in delivering work with speed, that is hype-free, and adds value. It’s creating things that matter —with great results
- Brand content
- Advertising concepts
- Digital publishing
- In house production
- Brand identity and design
The work has to have:
- Respect and global know how
- Content = commerce
- Cultural relevance
- Unique approach
- Mitsubishi Motors: the brief was to re-energise a global brand with a strong local heritage — the future of diesel is electric
- BUNQ: banking case study
- Dead White Mens Clothes
The kind of work that this agency is creating is attracting new talent because of the sustainability factor; this came up several times during this summit.
A digital-native agency, fully integrated, that has grown very quickly from one country to 11 and from 11 people at the outset to 1000 today; the most-recent offices opened in Paris, Cologne and Copenhagen.
Creativity, technology and data, Dept created three separate sessions for us so that we could experience all three aspects of the agency with relevant case studies. Its management of the timing of these sessions was excellent — a very well-run agency.
Three hundred and fifty of its people are in the tech division and Dept works with a lot of tech partners with deep tech expertise. This enables it to invent and accelerate client business. It’s a whole new way of working and definitely showed us the future.
Dept shows brands how to work with Amazon and sell through the platform by creating the optimal content for those brands. It also manages the Amazon media budgets for those brands. Amazon is now becoming its own media owner by selling its own data; fascinating how this could evolve.
Dept see creativity as its core business and its mission is to create experiences that people want — user experience.
Dept has grown organically and through acquisition. It sees the key to that as keeping the founders involved in the business and ensuring that they are partners in the whole agency. It has in this way managed to retain the culture of each one that is acquired. Finding business is less difficult than retaining and finding the best people for the agency.
Now in 10 markets, we first met this agency some five years ago in New York at the outset of social media and its development. The agency is now a full-service creative agency focused on social. It works from insights (social) to strategy, from concept to execution, then distribution and measurement.
With a very impressive client list, We are Social is still at the leading edge of social. Owned now by Blue Focus Communications (China), it is still able to act independently and grow significantly — especially in China!
- For the LGBTQI community with the Milan Gay Pride project of 2018
It is now able to provide hard data on sales as a result of social media campaigns, having developed its own metrics for this.
Although it wants to be included in bigger pitches (not only social), it will always be a socially led agency and this is its positioning, which we certainly advised it to hang on to. It is a deep social expert and has built up content through its connections with the brands and consumers.
The final agency of the day was SuperHeroes, an independent creative agency for the digital era with offices in Amsterdam, New York and Singapore. Its mission? “We save the world from boring advertising.” The group consists of three agencies: Great Question — digital and PR; Super Powered — agency of things; and Magic Bullet — production agency. It believes in sequential storytelling in advertising at all touchpoints. How can making ads feel more human?
We first heard the expression “dark social” — more on that later.
While it makes lots of content for it clients, it also makes TVCs but ensure that they are kept short so as not to be boring plus able to be distributed on social media. It wants to work with forward-looking brands to create integrated campaigns with a digital-first approach.
The agency entertained us with a ‘pub quiz’, as well as a varied and interesting dinner.
And so Day 1 ended. More tomorrow!
- #AdForumSummit Amsterdam Day 3: Era of vertical video is now
- #AdForumSummit Amsterdam Day 2: Mix of intl networks, local independents
Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is managing director of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK. She will be presenting detailed and in-depth reports and case studies on each agency from this 2018 AdForum Summit at presentations in Johannesburg and Cape Town in the next month.
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