Hot Dam: The top 10 creative agencies in Amsterdam (part 1)

A still from Cheil Amsterdam's work for Samsung's Galaxy S7

Who are the most successful agencies in Amsterdam? In The Drum magazine's latest Creative Cities supplement, we profiled the 10 of the most awarded Dutch shops as ranked by the most recent Big Won report.

J Walter Thompson Amsterdam

A full-service agency working for a range of national and international clients such as ING Bank, Unilever, Heineken and Liberty Global, J Walter Thompson Amsterdam distinguishes itself with a strong focus on innovation.

Pushing boundaries with technology-driven creative work and solutions beyond standard communication, it is best known for its ‘Next Rembrandt’ crafted for ING Bank – a masterpiece drawn by proprietary artificial intelligence software that swept Cannes in 2016, winning 16 awards including two Grand Prix (Cyber and Creative Data) and an Innovation Lion.

There were more Gold Lions this year, in the Direct category for its ‘School for Justice’ in India for the Free a Girl Movement, which is training victims of child prostitution to become public prosecutors and put their perpetrators behind bars.

The agency’s creative partner Bas Korsten explains that he believes the future of advertising lies in providing its clients with fundamental solutions, often with innovation at its heart.

“As such, we are continuously adapting ourselves organizationally to be able to meet this need. We offer creative consultancy solutions and align the agency with our clients’ social media and e-commerce teams. We help clients with developing new products and services and assist them in taking these to the market, and embed creativity at the core of our clients’ business to formulate fundamental solutions for the challenges of today and tomorrow.”

JWT won a Gold Lion for its ‘School for Justice’, which is helping victims of child prostitution in India to hit back

72andSunny Amsterdam

A modern full-service creative company producing global, pan-European and local work in the heart of Europe, 72andSunny Amsterdam has some 150 employees of 30 different nationalities working out of its Westerstraat base.

The aim of these employees, the agency says, is to create work for some of the world’s most innovative and progressive brands (it has clients such as Adidas, Axe, Carlsberg, Google, Lipton Ice Tea, Piaggio and Smirnoff on its books) that define culture today.

It’s a lofty aim, and no doubt something all good agencies would love to be remembered for, but in its overhaul of Axe (Lynx in some parts of the world) 72andSunny Amsterdam has arguably achieved just that.

With the Unilever-owned personal care brand having long peddled a story that revolved around making men more attractive to women, 72andSunny turned this old-school definition of dating on its head by urging young men to embrace their individuality, celebrate what makes them them, and become more attractive as a result.

The ’Find Your Magic’ campaign brought to the fore a more multidimensional masculinity that includes big noses, high heels, wheelchair dancing and kindness to kittens. And it won at Cannes, D&AD, Epica and many more in the process.

The most recent installment of the campaign, #isitokforguys, is a Google search-driven campaign that reveals how guys hide behind their screen to ask the questions they won’t ask out loud. The campaign included content from influencers like heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua and encouraged young men to get rid of the cultural pressures and labels limiting definitions of what it means to ‘be a man’.

The agency has also made the move into producing its own products, launching Raynsie – a line of weatherproof gear for urban riders inspired by Amsterdam’s rainy weather – last year, gaining, it says, a deeper understanding of the client journey of bringing products to market, from creation to IP, manufacturing, logistics and marketing.

72andSunny’s #isitokforguys creative for Axe tackled the social pressure to ‘act like a man’

TBWA\Neboko

Since 2002, when TBWA\Campaign Company merged with Neboko, TBWA\Neboko has been what chief creative officer Darre van Dijk describes as “an agency for today and tomorrow”.

A one-stop shop for brands, it is living proof that there is a market for omnichannel agencies, bringing under one roof various departments such as online video, apps and loyalty, real-time marketing and CRM to service an increasingly fragmented media landscape.

The team of almost 200 has at its core a commitment to disruption, which, says van Dijk, is stronger and more diverse than ever and the bedrock for continuous change.

“Our people love to work in a culture where we develop, produce, publish and optimize by ourselves.”

The agency also has its own Tech Team – 12 experts, from creative technologists and digital planners to data crunchers, social media specialists, digital producers and community managers, who assist the agency.

Such a set-up has led to work such as the multi-award-winning ‘McTrax’, a high-tech version of the McDonald’s paper placemat that uses conductive ink, a small battery and a thin circuit board to allow the user to make their own music with audio loops, synths and musical effects.

More recently for the fast food chain, it launched the Maestro burger with the explosive sound of a live orchestra that serenaded customers and soundtracked their meals, while a live choir sang their names.

TBWA\Neboko took the most gongs from Cannes Lions of any Dutch agency this year, with 11 Bronze Lions for five different campaigns for four different clients.

TBWA\Neboko’s award-winning ‘McTrax’ lets McDonald’s customers create their own music

Achtung

Founded in 2005 by former Lostboys Dick Buschman and Mervyn ten Dam, Achtung (or McGarryBowen Amsterdam as it is now called outside the Netherlands since Dentsu Aegis Network bought it last year) has for the past 12 years been cultivating a name for itself as one of Amsterdam’s best digital shops, racking up Cannes Lions, Webby Awards, FWAs, Red Dots and Eurobests for its work with clients such as Volkswagen, Google, Philips and Vodafone.

Describing itself as a “creative agency for the connected era, founded in the age of the web”, it looks to connect brands and people through impactful stories and engaging experiences, recently making the news for its work with Adobe that took a comical look at the relationship between art directors, designers and marketers, in a campaign to promote the Adobe Stock software.

The spot features a team of creatives and marketers creating an advert for a fictional ginger-beer brand named WolfBear. The viewers follow along as the designer uses Adobe Stock to keep up with the art director’s endless requests in real time, including adding ‘millennial-friendly’ kittens, a metro ginger beard, a bear Casanova and an epic volcanic explosion.

“We really pushed the content to the maximum, looking for all sorts of images to make this crazy composition. We discovered first-hand how much quality and diverse content Adobe Stock offers. You just chuck a search term into the side panel and seconds later there it is in your comp,” says McGarryBowen Amsterdam's creative director Daniël Sytsma.

By gently poking fun at exacting art directors, Achtung demonstrated the enormous depth of Adobe Stock

Cheil Amsterdam

To the southwest of Amsterdam, between Rembrandt Park and Vondelpark, lives Cheil Amsterdam, the Benelux base of Cheil Worldwide – the South Korean agency company that started out life as Samsung’s in-house shop.

Describing itself as “born from the Asian tech revolution and raised in the digital age”, the Cheil group continues to do a substantial amount of work for the electronics giant throughout the world, and in Amsterdam it is no different.

The agency there won gold at Epica last year for its work with an Icelandic fisherman renowned for having the world’s worst Instagram account, helping him to take brilliant pictures with the Galaxy S7 smartphone’s camera.

The mobile-first campaign tells an authentic and engaging story, demonstrating the benefits of the Samsung product and helping transform the brand’s reputation from a top tech company into a brand consumers love. The much followed Instagram account of Rúnar Jónsson, the fisherman, is now filled with great twilight photos rather than dark squares caused by a camera that couldn’t cope with Iceland’s low light conditions.

As the agency explains: “To connect with the new consumer you don’t need one door but many, and the right key to open them.”

By sitting at the cutting edge between digital, retail and advertising, the agency is creating convincing, contagious stories propelled by innovation and real-time insights.

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Staff Writer

The Drum is a global media platform and the biggest marketing website in Europe. We produce The Drum magazine, 30 awards and events and manage The Drum Network which aims to make independently minded agencies more successful. We also help brands find the right agencies to work with through the Recommended Agency Register (RAR).

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