The value ecosystem

Ad agencies need more skills than ever to cater for their increasingly sophisticated 'Networked Brands'.

The marketing world just keeps getting more complex. We’re living in an age of abundance, distractions and disruption. There’s an array of options for consumers in almost every category. There are constant interruptions in their day, creating ever-decreasing attention spans. And disruptive business models are popping up all the time, challenging any clients that dare rest on their laurels.

In this increasingly complicated world, some brands do better than others, seeming to rise above the chaos and confusion. They are connecting with consumers on a mass scale through digital tools. They are enjoying greater loyalty than ever before by bringing their customers into an ecosystem of value that makes their lives easier. And they are building brand equity through engagement, not just by impressions.

At Blast Radius, we refer to these as "Networked Brands". These are brands that have created an eco­system whose pieces come together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s an ecosystem where attention is earned, utility is created, data is leveraged, systems are flexible and touchpoints are consistent. To us, it’s about much more than just a nice philosophy. Because of the economies and effectiveness inherent in the approach, Networked Brands are able to grow faster than their competition. They are able to better invest in their marketing. They are able to have more loyal customers. And they are able to capitalise on the opportunities that arise.

To help our clients achieve this goal, we’re becoming involved in their business in a much deeper way than ever. We are developing systems to respond to customer-service issues, and providing community managers to be their voice to the world. We are developing content with which they present themselves to consumers, creating their retail environments and assisting with everything from merchandising to promotions. And, yes, sometimes we even develop advertising for them.

All these added services mean the modern agency requires a much broader range of capabilities. First, we need big and broad strategic thinkers in all areas – to create ideas that will drive the brands on a global scale, but also to  consider the implications across multiple channels and touchpoints. We also need specialists, many working in roles that didn’t even exist a decade or so ago. Once, all an ad agency needed were a couple of creatives, a suit and a good producer. Now, you need user-experience specialists,  business analysts, e-commerce experts, app developers, technical people of all stripes, search gurus – and on it goes.

In Amsterdam, clients are both domestic and international. To create a global Networked Brand, an agency needs to be able to develop ideas that work independent of local culture but can also incorporate regional variations. It must understand how social ideas will work in different regions. It needs to understand how to build platforms that can be rolled out across markets, developing them for maximum localisation and for the local markets to pick and choose when and how they want to be involved. And the agency needs to have experience in working with various governance models.

This added level of complexity is what makes Amsterdam so well-suited to creating global Networked Brands. In few other places will you find the assortment of talent from across the digital spectrum that you do in Amsterdam, that also have global backgrounds and experience.

‘To us, it’s about much more than just a nice philosophy’

At Blast Radius Amsterdam, we have more than 20 nationalities within our office, all bringing their own talents, of course, but also their various international expertise and experience to the mix. You simply would not find that working with a London- or New York-based agency. There might be a significant number of expats, but they will be a proportionately smaller group and the local culture will still dominate – so the agencies remain most definitely English or American. Here in Amsterdam, the agencies themselves are able to be truly global in nature.

Unfortunately, this market is a fraction of the size of the major agency markets, which can make it more challenging when it comes to finding new talent. (We’re always looking – check our website for details.)

But that’s also where Amsterdam excels. Due to the quality of life, the ease of moving here, the ability to speak English anywhere and the open approach of the government to immigration, this is a destination of choice for top talent from around the world. Got a top candidate wavering on their move? Bring them to town, hope the weather co-operates and introduce them to Amsterdam living. The odds of you signing them has dramatically increased.

The other advantage of creating global work in Amsterdam, which is now almost a cliché, is the fact that this city has always had a global outlook. Certainly, the expats we hire are the kind of people who have signed on for a bit of adventure. But the local Dutch talent, which is also crucial to our business and a key part of our team, also comes with that global mindset.

Blast Radius Amsterdam recently merged with These Days Amsterdam, bringing together the Blast expertise in creating engaging digital brand experiences with These Days’ skills in CRM and activation, allowing us to better integrate data-driven thinking into our work. The newly merged agency has English as its first language, and the two groups have come together well, largely due to shared values and interests.

As marketing moves into an age when the skills agencies need become increasingly diverse, and the ability to find and keep top talent is a major differentiator, there may be no better place in Europe than Amsterdam.

Stefan Hawes is the CEO of Blast Radius Amsterdam

See more from Adland in Amsterdam 2013


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