by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) AMSTERDAM: We met with a total of seven agencies on Day 2 of the 2018 AdForum Worldwide Summit Amsterdam, a mixture of international network agencies and local independents.

It was easier to meet with more, thanks to the distance and traffic factors, which are more favourable in Amsterdam than in New York. We also did much more walking as it was difficult for a coach to navigate the narrow streets next to the canals. Luckily, we all had our walking shoes with us, the only tricky part being to watch out for the cyclists. Amsterdam is a city of bicycles and this seems to be the favoured way of going to and from work, along with the trams which run very efficiently. Cyclists are dominant and they don’t slow down for anyone.

But back to Day 2.


First up was MullenLowe, where we enjoyed an excellent breakfast along with its feedback on how it’s worked on our AdForum input in the past two years. It was very refreshing and a very grownup approach.

As an agency, it wants to become even more competitive with greater cohesion across all the markets where the agency is present, particularly in Europe, where it perceived itself to be quite fragmented and which was in part some of the feedback we shared two years ago.

MullenLowe continues to be the most-effective network; it has held this position now for eight years and this is according to the International Effies Awards results. Its creative and media hyperbundling strategy has worked, resulting in better strategy, better ideas and better execution.

Case studies

  • Burger King — Come as a Clown, eat like a King Promo for Halloween
  • National Health Service (NHS) — nursing recruitment
  • Amplifon — hearing aids
  • Unstereotype Alliance — UN Women


The second agency, and another network, is big in Amsterdam with 220 people. Its positioning and mantra this year in particular is to “Be more Dutch”, which means to get to the point quicker. In this case, it wants to drive the following:

  • Being entrepreneurial
  • Getting to the work quicker
  • Simplicity
  • Thinking business
  • Momentum

TBWA talked to us about shapeshifting the agency, seeing culture as its competition. It noted that video/online content has grown dramatically; it does much more production in-house now than ever before, with 200 films being completed this year alone in the first nine months. It works with data day in and day out, and connects culture and data as a result.

Key clients

  • McDonalds
  • Adidas
  • Vodafone
  • National Lottery

Many of its client relationships are long term and the agency believes it is well-placed to have a “greater share of the future”.

Havas Lemz

“Societal change sells more coffee. Authenticity sells more products.”

This agency echoed much of what we heard throughout the three days in Amsterdam.

It wants to be able to do the right thing:

  • From purpose
  • From the heart
  • From trust

And it wants to meet brands and organisations which are committed to a better world. The agency believes that the best campaign is a solution and that there’s nothing that can’t be solved together.

It showed us some excellent case studies for IKEA, Rabobank and Just Diggit (an NGO).

The Brave New Now

The fourth agency of the day, and the first independent, was founded four years ago by three very experienced British partners who’re all ex-network veterans. Their thinking is that they want to be able to offer clients the level of expertise that they have but without the overheads of the big network agencies. There are 15 people in the agency currently, they’re very results driven, and they haven’t lost a client since they started the agency four years back. Clients include Ven, Tesla, Aperol Spritz, among others.

The Tesla client is interesting, as Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, is renowned for saying that he doesn’t want to work with agencies. However, the Brave New Now was appointed to devise lead-generating campaigns for Tesla and the business had grown steeply since then.

Case studies for Aperol, Ven and two for Tesla plus one for Tanqueray demonstrated the agency’s levels of creativity and business sense. It can handle global and local projects, large and small.


With offices in Helsinki and Amsterdam, the agency describes itself as a hybrid partner for all things future. It offers a range of consultancy and agency services, built on exceptional technological competence, and it makes future products and services and helps clients remain ahead in an increasingly complex and changing world.

With a global reach, Nordic touch, a boutique approach and an exceptional ability to scale and take on projects of any calibre, it leads by example at the forefront of the workplace, changing how the world works and sharing everything that it knows.

An exceptional agency with high-end digital experience for premium brands, it sees its competitors mainly as AKQA and Media Monks. Clients such as adidas and Nokia enable it to create the technological and creatively driven projects and campaigns that have built the agency to where it is today.


With 170 people in Amsterdam and 31 different nationalities, this is one of the favourites at AdForum and we looked forward to seeing some exceptional work. We weren’t disappointed.

Such a diverse team of people committed to transcreation, not adaptation, and very serious about its business and clients’ business. It’s results-driven, creatively and strategically led. A very humble approach — again this kind of attitude was prevalent throughout the three days.

Case studies for Axe, adidas, Smirnoff and IKEA ( seems like everyone has a piece of IKEA), Google and Lynx, Ebay made this session one of the day’s highlights.

It commented that the problems at MDC (the network to which it belongs) haven’t had an impact on its business.


And finally, the seventh agency that day, and we were only 30 minutes late, having caught up time at the previous agency.

Anomaly gave us a very good report back:

  • It overinvests in experienced people
  • It has its progressive business model (which bases costs on output, not hours) — value-based compensation with a performance bonus
  • It always brings in senior people and new skills at top level
  • It’s also building its own products
  • Culture matters deeply

With offices in New York, LA, London, Shanghai, Berlin and Amsterdam, and plans to open elsewhere, it is very well-placed with a number of important initiatives.


And so Day 2 ended. Final report on Thursday!

See also

Updated at 9.30am on 9 October 2018.


Johanna McDowellJohanna 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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