CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/STRAWBERRY FROG - The Amsterdam agency's cross-border philosophy is working

Last week a 30-man operation in Amsterdam stole a

multimillion-pound international launch account for the US telecom giant

Sprint right from under the noses of the world's big networks.

The dollars 24 billion company wants to launch the brand outside the US,

and create what some say is impossible to achieve: effective

cross-border campaigns.

The prospect should have had the networks rubbing their hands together

with glee - plotting ways to snatch the work before laughing all the way

to the bank. Instead, the joke was well and truly on them. They didn't

know about it. They weren't even approached.

The ridiculously named Strawberry Frog didn't enter an expensive pitch

process - the client came asking. Sprint had heard about Frog's

philosophy and bought it.

The agency started up two years ago with the aim to produce quality

cross-border work, without a cumbersome network. Founders Brian Elliott,

Karen Drakenberg and Scott Goodson had worked for the networks and

disliked the way these accounts were run.

Elliott and Goodson feel the majority of work produced for the

international market is bland and compromised. 'We are part of the most

over-communicated generation in history,' Elliott says. 'Agencies have

done their jobs too well - so you have to push the limits or change the

game completely. International ads seem to lend themselves to dumbing

down. The time these things take to get done by the networks is not good


This is the challenge that Frog wants to meet. But Elliott admits that

this has only been possible for a short time owing to technological

advancements and deregulation in Europe. To service international

clients creatively, they put together what they call a 'multicultural

agency' (14 languages are spoken at Frog) that, they say, can work

leaner and faster and beat the networks at their own game.

Frog relies on window sales and promotion to drive its new business.

At first it didn't go looking for clients but concentrated on getting

quality work out and letting it speak for itself. Now the agency talks

to brands that it feels matches its philosophy.

'Our simple idea is that in this world today there are frogs and

dinosaurs. Like David versus Goliath,' Elliott enthuses. It seems to

have worked, with clients such as Microsoft's MSN, Motorola's V-box and

Credit Suisse on its list.

The agency has no desire to be the biggest: 'It's not our ambition to

work with as many clients as we can get, just a small number of

prominent, ambitious brands which are passionate about branding across

borders. Beyond a certain size you become a different kind of place,'

Elliott says. He feels the largest Frog can get is up to 50 people.

Andrew Melsom, the managing director of the client-agency matchmaker

service, Agency Insight, says: 'I'm convinced that there will be

international campaigns that will be increasingly appealing to the mass

consumer. I fail to see why it is necessary to use different agencies in

every country, except for consultative research. That can easily be

organised within a network. Now you can go to a 'Strawberry Frog', and

with today's technology they could do it. I haven't seen it work yet but

I'm convinced that it will.'