The Drum Awards Festival - Official Deadline

-d -h -min -sec


Amsterdam: A city built for purpose

By Hazel Livingstone, CEO

The Brave New Now


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.

Find out more

December 2, 2019 | 5 min read

Here’s a little-known fact. The three core values of Amsterdam are the spirit of commerce, creativity and innovation. These have been the city’s strengths for centuries and they’re continuing to fuel growth today, with international brands relocating to this accessible and welcoming global epicentre of fresh thinking. The figures don’t lie: the latest statistics show that 143 new international companies opened offices in Amsterdam last year. Brexit isn’t exactly an obstacle to that trend.

Amsterdam canal

The Brave New Now on why Amsterdam’s creative community is thriving and why brands are relocating to the city.

But why are they coming here? And what’s so special about this city that’s pulling marketers here in droves?

I know, from personal experience. I came here for an interview and never went home. That was 10 years ago and now, five years after setting up an agency here, the unique benefits of this city have never been clearer.

Deep pools

First, there’s the work/life balance. That may sound at odds with the ‘always on’ culture of the industry, but as Jack said, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. The best thinking does not come from working into the wee small hours. Working flexibly and working smart is celebrated in Amsterdam because it ensures everyone has a rewarding home life and can spend personal time with friends and family. Fresh, happy minds breed brilliant creative thinking.

Secondly, there’s the focus on collaboration. Well before co-creation was a buzzword, Amsterdam was leading the way in joint initiatives. In a city that has only 850,000 permanent residents, there’s a village mentality and a friendly openness towards doing business together. There’s less pride taken in personal ownership of ideas, and an appreciation that collaborations between experts-in-field produce better, more effective results for brands.

This leads to the third great advantage of doing creative business in Amsterdam: access to the best pool of talent imaginable. The city has one of the highest proportions of freelancers to employed workers in the world. In an increasingly project-based client/agency method of remuneration, the ability to bring in and build the best team of expert talent tailored specifically for the job at hand not only benefits the end result, it ensures highly competitive cost-efficiencies. The relative cost to brands working with Amsterdam-based creative partners versus those in London or New York is tangible. In an industry where ROI and the bottom-line has never been under more scrutiny, Amsterdam is winning.

Cutting-edge digital innovation is the fourth major advantage of Amsterdam. The Netherlands leads Europe in terms of internet access and high-speed connectivity and Amsterdam, as a microcosm of the whole country, is a hotbed of digital talent and creativity.

Take online payment infrastructures for the likes of Netflix, Spotify and a host of other digital powerbrands: you’ll find they originated here (with Adyen). Many digital firsts across various sectors and industries were created by Amsterdam-based minds. As an agency challenged regularly with the need to deliver new, better ways to connect with audiences bombarded with a daily digital maelstrom, we’ve been able to rise to the occasion. Just for starters, check out ‘Your Future Tesla’– breaking down the barriers for would-be Tesla owners via compelling personalised video, which is driving high lead-generation.

Fear is the enemy

Toleration of views different than your own is vital for the development of wholly original ideas: fear only produces inertia, not innovation. That’s why the city’s inherent diversity is the fifth reason the Amsterdam creative scene is thriving. Anything goes. Literally anything.

Newcomers to the city often exclaim surprise when walking down a street for the first time and seeing some of the fashion on display, from tutus on grandmothers to even more individual expressions of style. That’s just one tiny indication of how amazingly tolerant this city and its culture is towards self-expression. It’s not weird; it’s creative. It's welcoming.

The next decade promises even greater challenges as brands seek to carve out unique spaces in a dynamic, ever-shifting and swelling sea of new digital formats. They require agile teams capable of delivering against those challenges, whilst ensuring efficiencies and 'work smart' collaborative approaches.

Brands are relocating to Amsterdam because this city already has all of this on hand, today, and only a short bike ride away. The future looks rosy for Amsterdam’s creative community and the brands relocating here to do business. The three core values of the city have never been more evident, nor more relevant.

Hazel Livingstone, CEO at The Brave New Now.


Content by The Drum Network member:

The Brave New Now

Find out more

More from Advertising

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +