Comparing the international creative community in Amsterdam with that of London is akin to being asked to compare bananas with Tuesday; you just can’t.
Yet, to all intents and purposes, that’s just what we are asked to do by our clients on a daily basis. Sure, you could say one meanders canal-side within a quaint, European capital with a population approximately equal to that of Leeds, while the other is striding forward, steadfastly cutting its way with a rusty spoon through a global financial epicentre on a daily basis. The difference, on many levels, presents itself through stark and dynamic flavours that continually evolve. It’s the overall blend that packs the punch.
For centuries, Amsterdam has been the gateway to the continent, its thriving port a truly international transport hub. Since the dawn of free trade and travel (the 13th century, let’s say), the Dutch have welcomed people of all nationalities, creeds and colours to their capital, creating a truly cosmopolitan community like no other. Its collective ability to see beyond its own borders and absorb ideas from other cultures has, in no small part, been instrumental in the reaffirmation of Amsterdam as the gateway to Europe, not only in the physical, consumerist sense of the word but also in the formation and translation of ideas in the creative sphere. Most recently in our field, ideas born and bred in Amsterdam transcend national limitations, languages and cultural differences to create impact the world over, not through cleverly designed multilingual, disruptive, intersectional social platforms (whatever those may be) but, we believe, through a simple idea, melded to perfection.
As Al Moseley, the president and chief creative officer at 180 Amsterdam, says: "The rich cultural diversity of Amsterdam, coupled with a global business acumen developed over the past 400 years, has helped this city become a hub for global creativity." I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Want a flavour of creative blending at its best? The impact of the "Sweetie" campaign by the Amsterdam-based Lemz for Terre des Hommes in collaboration with MediaMonks, among others, has been felt the world over. Major news headlines have been made from Stockholm to São Paulo, showing that the power of a simple idea – stop webcam child sex tourism – can effect true change across the globe. "Sweetie" is a superb example of the power of collaboration; its unparalleled global attention and the Grand Prix for Good alongside 13 golds at Cannes Lions this year are testament to that.
Ultimately, whatever discipline you identify most closely with, we are storytellers by different degrees. As an industry, of course, we are briefed to get people talking, get products flying off shelves or get bums on seats in the quickest, most efficient way. But, when you boil it down to its bare bones and distil the essence, we can only do that by telling a convincing story and allowing consumers to connect with it. Connection and honesty are paramount, whether we are talking pre-production or post-production, creative development or file transfer, big data or product design innovation. By its nature, Amsterdam plays in the collaborative kitchen of creative alchemy, where openness to new ideas whips up a dish in which "creative umami" flourishes. We are talking about the sprinkling (or smoking, perhaps?) of a special something to enhance flavours in perfect balance.
Where London is global, Amsterdam is international – and the difference between the two cannot be underestimated. If you were to cut London, it would bleed grey matter, the tissue that gives us our hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making and self-control. Amsterdam, on the other hand, would bleed a rainbow of languages, art, culture, design and a respect for the craftsmanship of other disciplines.
It is this broader, more cross-pollinated spectrum that FinchFactor is bringing to the reputation management of the creative industries in London with our new office in Soho Square. Sure, London will always continue to have a certain je ne sais quoi but, for some, the second incarnation of Cool Britannia that was partly what made the Olympics such a success two years ago is beginning to wane.
That is not so say that London has been caught with its pants down in the creative stakes – far from it. The originality and inventiveness emanating from power-punching new agencies such as HeyHuman and Mr President is proof of that. But the fact remains that the honesty and what-you-see-is-what-you-get nature of Amsterdam is luring the most inspiring and talented minds in the creative world to its shores, and long may that continue.
In Amsterdam, the creative industry wears its heart on its sleeve and knows that it is the sum of all its parts that transforms something good into something exceptional.
The story of Amsterdam as the blender, the smorgasbord or, even, the cherry on the top of the icing on the cake of our industry worldwide is far from over.
Kerrie Finch is the founder and chief executive of FinchFactor