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Amsterdam: Proud but not loud

By Kirsty Cole, Head of growth

SGK Anthem Amsterdam


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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November 27, 2019 | 4 min read

The global creative industry continues to evolve. Agency models are becoming more agile and responsive, with service offers needing to be far more integrated in order to deliver against the growing marketing mix. Securing and retaining top talent remains a constant challenge, but agencies have made great leaps in recent years by fostering healthier and more positive working cultures, including options to work flexibly and remotely. In these regards Netherlands-based creative agencies are no exception, but what makes Amsterdam in particular a unique creative hub?


Of course, Amsterdam has a special geographical position as a key gateway to mainland Europe, but rest assured, it’s far more interesting and nuanced than simply ‘it’s a 45-minute flight from London.’ Beyond ease of travel, there are a host of unique qualities that make Amsterdam extraordinary.

The influence of culture

Amsterdam is not an ‘always-on’ environment and, indeed, the rumours are true; there is a far better work-life balance in Amsterdam compared to many other major creative cities. This doesn’t mean the workforce is lazy – far from it. Instead, it’s all about working smarter not harder. There’s a deep-rooted understanding and appreciation for the need to find harmony between your personal and professional investments. Such an ethos is actively promoted by many businesses including within the creative industry, to the benefit of both the companies and their employees.

The importance placed on culture is also evident in the approach to design. The attention paid to cultural distinctions and all the subtleties these can include are valued very highly in the development of brand and packaging design, not only when working on local brands, but also for brands in neighbouring markets such as Belgium, France and Germany. Amsterdam’s history as an ‘open’ city has helped breed a respect for and sensitivity to other cultures that ensures all design work is well considered and therefore highly effective.

A purpose driven approach

From the delicate placement of the cobblestone bricks in the streets around the canal belts, to the city’s investment in sustainable urban living in the North, Amsterdam is both principled and ambitious.

The Netherlands has conceived a collective of purpose driven brands, brands with a clear mission as warriors for good. From Tony's Chocolonely’s slave free chocolate, to The Good Roll’s plastic free and 100% sustainable toilet paper, Amsterdam is a proving ground for brands for whom doing good really is good for business.

All brands, large and small, have an incredible opportunity to use their influence and market reach to champion sustainability, making significant positive contributions to people, communities and our planet. Anthem is no exception. We are passionately committed to supporting our clients in making steps towards more sustainable packaging solutions. Recently we launched a sustainable design series, exploring how design can be used as a tool for innovation in this area. One example showcased here is ‘Sculpted by the Sun’ - inspired by nature in all its simplicity; sunshine, grape, and cork, it brings to life a 100% compostable packaging solution.

Understated beauty

There is absolutely nothing showy about the Netherlands. Amsterdam and its inhabitants, both locals and the expats it attracts, are proud but not loud. By this I mean to express the city’s glorious lack of pretence and pomposity. The unique charm of the city and indeed the country more broadly is encapsulated in what I can best describe as a quiet elegance.

This understated beauty touches all aspects of life in Amsterdam, and indeed its residents’ approach to the design work generated here.

Kirsty Cole, head of growth, Anthem Amsterdam & Brussels


Content by The Drum Network member:

SGK Anthem Amsterdam

SGK Anthem is a leading global design agency that defines, creates, produces and transforms packaging and brand experiences to amplify brands, giving them the freedom...

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