To find the creative heart of the advertising business, we should look to Amsterdam. Holland’s culture affords nearly perfect conditions for creativity.

To find the creative heart of the advertising business, we should

look to Amsterdam. Holland’s culture affords nearly perfect conditions

for creativity.

Let’s start at the beginning. The Dutch are ingenious because they had

to be; the polder system of reclaiming land from the sea required hard

work and engineering inventiveness unmatched in the rest of the


Combating low sea-levels concentrated the minds of the Dutch, matching

their religious discipline and engendering an outward-looking


From the beginning, the Dutch mastered the sea, first with dikes and

then on the oceans.

Thus the Netherlands opened itself to influences from abroad and became

the most prosperous trading nation in the 17th century. When Holland

prospered commercially, so did the arts. Outbursts of intense creativity

from Holland become commonplace during periods of prosperity, and the

ability to absorb influences and put a Dutch spin on them have made the

country a creative hotbed.

The Dutch have a barbed sense of humour, based partly on the closeness

of their culture to the English. Like the English, Dutch reserve is the

font of ironic stories, told with long-winded wordplay or visual


And that is where they excel in advertising today. Arresting visual

storytelling is becoming a Dutch advertising trademark - although the

Dutch also excel at language skills. Dutch advertising can be wordy and

colloquial - as English work can be - but this type of creative

expression doesn’t play well out of Holland, and so the adaptable Dutch

have focused on visual international advertising.

Agencies in Holland earn good margins, offer integrated communications

as standard, have institutionalised planning better than any other

European market - and display a brazen confidence in their own

excellence. And this results in brave work. Perhaps that’s why Wieden

and Kennedy has Amsterdam as its European office base.

The Dutch are now spreading their wings; the directors, Allan van Rhijn,

Paul Meijer and Will van der Vlugt, and the businessmen, Johan Hofstra

and Albert Winninghoff, are all international players. Don’t take my

word for it; look at the reels of DDB, PPGH/JWT, FHV/BBDO, Lowe Kuiper

and Schouten and the ’third wave’ agencies emerging. Creatively, the

Dutch are red hot.

Richard Block is the regional planning director, Europe, the Middle East

and Africa, of J. Walter Thompson.


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