The Drum Awards Festival - Official Deadline

-d -h -min -sec


Why Amsterdam is reaping the Brexit benefits

By Chris Adams, Founder & director of growth

Hey Honey


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 5, 2019 | 6 min read

The Battle for Creative Diversity

Border Brexit sign

HeyHoney on finding the silver lining around Brexit.

For the past few decades we’ve seen the creative crown move from city to city. Amsterdam even held it for a while in the Naughties, but London snatched it back and continued to reign over the creative kingdom for a decade. I believe this to be because London has always emitted a creative vibe that attracts multicultural and a very diverse set of creative talent.

Diversity has always been a huge talking point within this industry, not just because of equality in the workplace but because it is essential for creativity, as proven by Harvard Business Review in their study on diversity. The best ideas emerge (and the worst ideas are avoided) only when you can apply multiple and differing viewpoints. Creativity is at the heart of the marketing and communications world and London has reigned supreme due to its ability to attract multiple nationalities, diverse genders and talent from all over Europe.

Enter Brexit.

Not only are UK-born creative talent, fed up of the country’s uncertain political nature, opting to move abroad, but job-seekers from all over Europe are actively avoiding moving to the UK through fear of the unknown due to the ever more likely no-deal Brexit.

Healthy competition makes for a healthy industry

Amsterdam – a tiny Dutch city of 850,000 people – already houses over 116 creative agencies in the city centre, with a further few thousand people making up media and marketing companies in neighbouring cities like Rotterdam, Hoofdorp and Delft. Over the next few years we will see those numbers grow, as well as the price of houses – much to our dismay.

With the growth of the creative industry in Amsterdam will come more competition between agencies for the best business and the best talent. Competition creates some of the best environments and ensures that industries thrive. This increased competition could spur agencies to continuously improve the quality of their creative work, with more brands looking to Amsterdam for great ideas.

Hyper-localised creativity is vital for an effective EU strategy

In recent years, the United Kingdom has typically had strong economic growth, which has attracted global companies that were looking for an EMEA base. Marketing departments often chose to reside in the UK specifically because the lingua franca of the world is English. The UK had a tenacious ability to attract multicultural and diverse talent speaking every European language. Thanks to Brexit, those companies are choosing to move elsewhere, with the Dutch capital in the running as a favourite relocation.

The Netherlands already boasts the European headquarters of some of the biggest and most powerful companies including Nike, Panasonic, Netflix, Cisco, IKEA, Tesla, and Under Armour. In 2018, the country attracted 158 foreign companies, bringing 7,200 jobs with them. According to the city government, half of the jobs that will be created in the coming three years will be directly due to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. Fourth on the list of industries with foreign companies generating the most jobs in 2018 is the creative industry, just behind the tech, health and life sciences industries.

The reason why this is good for the creative agency scene in Amsterdam is that brands with HQs in the city are looking for agencies that can host multiple country channels under one roof. A move away from pan-European marketing channels and towards local channels has become prominent over the past 10 years with the rise of social media. We believe that every global brand with pan-European operations has a duty to its consumers to create hyper-local and native content bespoke to each region, otherwise audiences may feel like they’ve been relegated to a US and English-dominated consumer box.

We are a pan-European social creative agency that helps brands to scale social across the EU, thus we know the painstaking but highly effective process of localising content to fit each market. The ability to create and share assets across countries within marketing, tailored to cultures and subcultures alike, is becoming more important due to the competition out there for brands to engage consumers through social media.

Carpe diem

We spend a lot of time educating US-based global brands that are looking to ‘crack Europe’ that it’s not a one-size-fits-all methodology on social. In Europe we are dealing with multiple languages, cultural references and idioms that are so diverse it’s impossible to generalise. The UK is big on meme culture, but the Italians won’t engage with memes; Germans are big on individuality whereas the French engage far more with style and sophistication.

The demand to cater to diverse nationalities highlights the need to have multiple languages and natives under one agency roof. We can only urge agencies to make the best use of this diverse talent pool at your fingertips that is flooding to Amsterdam because of Brexit.

Although Brexit is the topic-that-must-not-be-named, we can only rejoice that our beautiful, below sea-level city that’s full of hardy dams, snaking canals, and flourishing tulips, has come out on top in the race to attract the most diverse, talented individuals and companies fleeing the once ‘promised land’ to settle on mainland Europe.

Chris Adams, founder and SEO of Hey Honey.


Content by The Drum Network member:

Hey Honey

Hey Honey, we're a global social-first creative agency helping connect brands to culture, moments & people. An award-winning agency and team of diverse digital...

Find out more

More from Advertising

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +