Amsterdam has established itself on the international ad arena with its creative upstarts and numerous small but super-hot shops doing international work. It’s also positioning itself at the forefront of industry change with a collaborative model penned by Roger Beekman, founder of 60 layers of cake, the collaborative agency he launched in Amsterdam in 2005 and which last year spawned an office in Cape Town, as well as several competitors.
The model pulls in a wide spectrum of people from agency and client side, as well as outsiders, with relevant skills to work on campaigns.
Beekman – who started as an assistant art director at Saatchi & Saatchi in 1990 and also spent time at McCann Erickson, Y&R, TBWA, DDB, BBDO and BSUR – serves as creative partner at the Cape Town office and visits the city on a regular basis to, well, collaborate on pitches and campaigns with his local partners Ben Wren and Michael van den Heerik.
True to the founding principles of his agency, money doesn’t change hands for his time and expertise; instead it’s a straight swop of time with the Cape Town office, which spends time developing campaigns for Amsterdam-based clients in return.
Having spent his career at numerous large agencies, Beekman realised he enjoyed working with a wide range of people, but did not feel free to do so within the agency environment. He decided to start a new company that embraces an open way of working together and 60 layers of cake was born.
Beekman sees the collaborative work model as a step in the evolution of how we work, happening globally across many industries. For some reason, the advertising world got stuck behind.
The first year and a half was tough, Beekman admits, but he and his team were lucky in that they did good work that was noticed, and through Tokyo agency network ADK (the third biggest agency in Japan), which approached him to share his vision on collaboration with that agency, 60 layers obtained access to work on some choice brands including Nike, Puma and Nikon. It makes the sell for the new office much easier, says Beekman, as big brands are already using collaborative communication and he has a portfolio to prove it.
Smaller agencies with an entrepreneurial outlook are needed by innovators to take their ideas to the next level and take on established brands. They need partners, not ad agencies, says Beekman, as the smaller brands of today aim to become the big brands of tomorrow.
The Cape Town office, one year in, is doing well, and is working on projects for The Body Shop while also holding the accounts for Glamour, Getaway magazine, Zandvliet, Morgenster and Sinnfull, among others.