When 180 first took its place in Amsterdam's advertising landscape, our mission was to provide clients with an antidote to global advertising networks and create work that gets the world talking.
While that mission is as relevant today as it was 15 years ago, the challenges facing global marketers are more complex and constantly shifting.
Where once the primary concern of a global client might have been to distribute a 60-second ad effectively to a worldwide network of local marketing managers, today's global chief marketing officer must grapple with the accelerating speed of consumer-brand dialogue, the need for powerful local marketing delivered globally, and multichannel marketing driven by rapid technological progress.
Meeting these challenges requires an agency partner with a global state of mind, rather than a global spread. The traditional "throwing a world-sized blanket over the problems" insight tends to stifle the solutions as much as the problems. It is the root cause of the criticism that some networks are cumbersome and lack creative firepower.
On any given day in our building, the canal-side house that 180 calls home, you will find talented people of more than 20 nationalities sharing their ideas on our clients' challenges in a spirit of free-thinking camaraderie.
Just watching the Olympics at 180 was an explosion of diversity, cultural pride and nuance, and debate. Like the house itself, a residence to traders over many generations, 180 has become a beacon of internationalism - a global ecosystem under one roof that embraces an international perspective and rejects parochialism.
You can find echoes of this global mindset across Amsterdam. The city grew as a hub for international business fuelled by the determination of its people to learn multiple languages and financial systems, which means that today you are surrounded by the most multicultural of workforces.
It is also why, for us, global marketing success is not about countries, but about cultures. 180 thinking - finding a new approach and relevant voice - starts with a fierce commitment to understand the culture behind a brand. This thinking pervades what we create for clients, and how we create it. We mould teams and processes around the needs of each individual client - and they are seldom the same. With technology changing the where, when and speed of connections between consumers and brands, a tailored approach to team-building allows 180 to remain agile and creative while still operating at scale.
Our work with PlayStation, and the development of "the world is in play" platform, is testament to the ability to explore the humanity behind an industry and culture that began as a solitary experience in a bedroom and now lives across our everyday lives beyond the confines of the home. After all, whether you are a gamer in the UK or a gamer in the Ukraine, there are commonalities in the way you relate to the games and other gamers.
This approach resonates with connected consumers, yet it is also relevant to brands that exist globally but are still to find the unifying global voice that will take them to the next level - brands such as DHL Express and the sportswear manufacturer Asics.
DHL Express is the world's most global brand, operating in more than 220 markets, but had never truly behaved or communicated as a global force. By looking at its data and the humanity behind it, 180 unlocked an insight that addressed a key customer need. With the internet connecting the world so entirely, it was assumed that this carries over into trade, but DHL's Global Connectedness Index revealed that absolute levels of globalisation are much lower than commonly thought. For DHL's business customers, there is competitive advantage in expanding to other markets.
Our "speed of yellow" campaign was glued together with clear visual, audio and messaging pillars. It was able to reach into every corner of the business - and the world. Now DHL Express has a language, point of view and the tools to bring the brand to life.
Asics, which was playing second-fiddle in its market, had the heads of athletes but wanted their hearts - and to do it on a global scale. Our "made of sport" campaign retuned the brand's voice to one that provided true differentiation, and we connected this idea across the business model - connecting retail, digital, PR, events and communications through relevant assets and activations so that the brand could move forward as one.
For a client such as Western Union, results depend on a cultural sensitivity related to how the brand connects with consumers. We developed a consistent brand idea for Western Union, "moving money for better", and then brought it to life with partnerships and experiences in the worlds of music, though the World of Betters, and football, through the Uefa Europa League PASS Education Initiative. The effectiveness of both campaigns came from finding WU's authentic, but relevant, voice in a world where the audience is demanding and the cultural codes need to be carefully observed.
We have been successful by creating ideas that are simple, powerful, flexible and genuinely impact our clients' business. The complexity of an idea can make it unworkable on a global stage, yet dumbing it down can fail to reach deep into the culture you are trying to connect with. Great brands have always told great stories and our goal is to create global stories that transcend borders by engaging with cultures, not nations. And that comes from being in a city, and in a state of mind, that allows and inspires that approach to flourish.
POINT OF VIEW
Old master or HTML5? If only Vermeer learnt to code.
Creativity thrives in Amsterdam because ... of the rain, among other things.
I know I'm not in London when ... I see policemen with long hair.
I still haven't ... joined the insane mob of Dutch swimmers, who cover themselves in duck fat to swim the icy canals in winter.
Cheese or moules-frites? The Dutch are as crazy about cheese as the English are about a certain hot beverage.
Al Moseley is the executive creative director of 180 Amsterdam
Sponsored by 180 Amsterdam.