Sunday, 22 February 2015

Why is Amsterdam the Centre of World Advertising Right Now?

Of course that’s begging the question to an extent. But if you ask around you’ll find that most people see Amsterdam as the place to be for great advertising, and the place to go if you’re an ambitious AE or creative. More to the point, the number of international accounts with global brands being snagged by agencies based in Amsterdam is huge.

So why Amsterdam? There are a lot of reasons really. Even more so than London, the city is diverse, culturally and linguistically, and has a reputation, rightly or wrongly, for toleration and cultural liberalism, the heart of the ad industry. Everyone speaks English.

It’s also a beautiful city, and one with a lot more to offer than meets the eye (the food is great too). But all of these traits can be attributed to other great cities, from London to New York. So why is Amsterdam on top right now?

The answer lies in a comment made to me by an agency CEO who has been working there for a number of years. “Agencies around here are friendly, they’re neighbours, they get along, they don’t worry about accounts being lost amongst them, or partners moving from place to place. They know that an account here or there is not the end of the world." The goal is the work, not the politics behind it.

Perhaps this attitude is only maintained because of the growth in the AMS ad world. Perhaps only optimism prevents infighting. But that’s not what I see there.

Creativity often comes from adversity, but it rarely springs out of politicking and rivalry. The great UK ad agencies are not the ones fighting aggressively over accounts, but the ones confident, pitching for what they want rather than for the table scraps.

Amsterdam has learned the lesson from the London ad world, the lesson that London itself has not. Advertising is not improved by politics. Advertising is best when formed in a culture of multiculturalism and curiosity.

Let’s be serious. M&C Saatchi is a dying firm. So is Leo Burnett. Why? Because they have become bureaucracies, more fixated on infighting and bitter turf wars inside and outside of the agency.

The best agencies are those that have realised that success means not caring about wins or losses. That, despite the pretentiousness of this statement, the journey is more important than the end result. Because the journey is what makes the end result a result.

Amsterdam agencies have realised this. They’ve realised that advertising is not the same as business. It has to be engaging inside and out. And that fighting just isn’t as good as cooperation in growing ideas.

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