Creating worlds, not ads

Producing ideas that effortlessly cross cultural borders and allow brands to inhabit their own 'worlds' is much easier when based in a city that has always had a progressive global outlook.

All over the world, agencies are asking the same questions: how do we maintain long-term relationships with our clients? How do we help our clients reach a global audience? How do we retain the best talent? And how do we keep pace with an accelerating, technology-orientated world?

When it comes to business, the Dutch know what they are doing. They were the founders of modern international trade and they created the world's first stock exchange; that means that Amsterdam has always punched above its weight on the global stage. So it seems only natural for Amsterdam to become one of the centres of global advertising as clients move away from local marketing activity towards a global model.

Global marketing and advertising make sense financially, both from a brand consistency point of view and because digital is definitely not local. But global ambition brings a new set of challenges. How do ideas effortlessly cross cultural borders without a race to the creative bottom, where the idea takes a back seat and everyone reverts to talking about product?

At Tribal DDB Amsterdam, we have a simple philosophy that drives us forward and allows us to create modern, global, innovative and highly social advertising - "create worlds, not ads".

So, what is a "world"? Traditionally, in adland, we called it the "big idea". You might even call it a "long idea" - an idea you can keep writing ads from for five, ten, even 20 years. But a "world" is not a TV script or a print ad, it is not an iPhone app and it is not what you put on your Facebook page. A "world" works in all of these channels, but let's never confuse a channel, a technology or, even, an innovation with a "world" that can carry a whole brand.

If you look at Hollywood, a creative model that is facing its own challenges in the wake of technology, instant word-of-mouth and the need to make profit; the top ten grossing films of 2011 were all franchises and sequels that drew on worlds that have often existed for many years - Harry Potter, Pirates, Transformers, even Smurfs. (Don't shoot the messenger.)

The point is that people like "worlds". Star Wars has been a quick win for advertisers over the past few years, from Dixons and Vodafone to Volkswagen. It's a global language that everyone understands and can easily be associated with innovative brands. And we are in James Bond season again, so just as the 007 world can exist for 23 films, regardless of who the leading actor happens to be, so it can carry many luxury and premium brands.

But we cannot always borrow interest from existing worlds. We need to create our own. What are the best worlds in advertising right now? Axe is still going strong. "The most interesting man in the world" was a brilliant construct for Dos Equis, and Old Spice invites people into its crazy world of horses and muscles and just keeps pumping.

For Philips, Tribal DDB Amsterdam famously created "worlds" - the world of cinematic viewing experiences that didn't talk about product features but, instead, captured people's imaginations with campaigns such as "carousel" and "parallel lines" (co-created with DDB London).

For the Philips wake-up light, we created a world of experiments that peaked with us travelling to the ends of the earth to "wake up the town". We handed out wake-up lights to the most northern town in the world during the darkness of winter to see if the lights really worked (they did).

And now, for the Dutch airline KLM, we have created a social world, where the person inside the passenger is celebrated and rewarded on Facebook and via Twitter. We even tiled a plane with the faces of more than 4,000 KLM fans. And we have Heineken coming up, which quite literally will "open your world", so watch this space.

Worlds work on many levels. They allow the creative teams to really own and occupy the idea. Once you understand your world, you can come up with ads and, importantly for Tribal DDB Amsterdam, innovations and social content over and over again that is easy for the client to buy, because everyone understands the world you are working in.

Globally, worlds give you a consistency and reach via earned media and social activation that tactical ideas and heavy media spend cannot. If an audience can enter a creative world, its members will spend time with the content, feel like they co-own the brand and are much more likely to "like" and "share" what they see - and isn't this the ambition of every modern, global brand?

Right now, worlds work for Facebook. Its algorithms currently favour great, shareable content. More people liking and sharing content allows brands not only to reach new fans, but also to keep connecting with existing ones by socially earning priority real estate on their newsfeeds.

When we all move back to MySpace, the importance of compelling content is not going to change. Worlds transcend fashions and fads and will always allow you to work across the latest platforms or within and around the latest technological innovations. And let us not forget, if an agency creates and owns a world, the client will have a certain amount of loyalty to that agency, allowing agencies to build and maintain long-term, profitable relationships.

The Dutch have always understood that navigating new worlds is good business. And with a strong local and international team in place, Tribal DDB Amsterdam will carry that tradition forward, creating imaginative and innovative worlds for global brand clients.


Old master or HTML5? Both. A good idea will always need great copy and art direction, but technology requires an understanding of the end user's behaviour. Idea first; technology second.

Creativity thrives in Amsterdam because ... of the mix of cultures. You could probably plot the number of awards won by an agency alongside the number of nationalities working there.

I know I'm not in London when ... I'm on a pub-crawl and we're all on bikes.

I still haven't ... been to the Anne Frank House. It's a fascinating and tragic story, but the queues outside! One day ...

When in Amsterdam, don't expect ... everyone to speak English, or the default business language to always be English. The Dutch speak a lot of Dutch.

Cheese or moules-frites? Cheese is an infinite universe.

Chris Baylis is the executive creative director of Tribal DDB Amsterdam

Sponsored by Tribal DDB Amsterdam.


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