It's incredible that in such a small country as the Netherlands, there seems to be room for so many new agencies. It's like an epidemic. Why?
Is it the decay of the big network agencies in Amsterdam? Apart from TBWA, DDB and, maybe, JWT, such agencies are in freefall. They're not winning any new business and are only doing their network duty for invisible global clients. It's a bit of a Catch-22 situation, because you need outstanding work to get new business.
Is it Amsterdam's international character? More and more international independent agencies are opening in the city. Modernista, LG&F, 72andSunny, AKQA, to name a few. Then come production facilities that will, in turn, pave the way for new international agencies.
Is it because of the increasing willingness of big Dutch clients to put their faith in relatively small shops? KPN, the biggest telecoms provider in the Netherlands and one of the nation's biggest corporate clients, constructed the "Dutch Telco Team", a collaboration including two independent agencies, THEY and N=5. And Selmore, in the first year of its existence, was one of three contenders in a pitch for the EUR30 million ABN AMRO account.
Why not? A lot of the smaller agencies have been founded by the same people that made it big in network agencies. So you get the proven track record without the overheads.
Is it because of the fragmentation of target audiences? With fragmentation, different new channels are growing up quickly and, with those maturing channels, come specialised agencies. Clients feel they're not getting the most targeted advice from their full-service agencies and shift business to specialised shops.
Or is it just that nowadays everyone claims that they can hold their own in what used to be traditional agency territory. Woedend, a relatively young company that you would categorise as an online agency, has just won the total Asics pan-European business. And traditional "event" companies are selling themselves as the new "one-to-one" agencies.
Probably all of these reasons are true in some way or another. And you could say that any agency able to keep its head above water has a right to exist.
So with all these new fish in this relatively small pond, some people in the Dutch advertising scene are suggesting that a few of those small operations should join forces to form an agency that can compete with the big boys. But they're overlooking the fact that small agencies are already taking on major clients.
So, I don't think we've even reached the pinnacle of this whole "small is beautiful" trend. And with more than one million square metres of office space for rent in Amsterdam, I think there's room for a couple more "whatever you wanna call 'ems".
- Bas Korsten is a creative partner at the Selmore agency in Amsterdam.